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Nottingham & Derby District of the Methodist Church

Christmas 2016

Dear friends and colleagues

It's good to connect with each other through the year and especially now as we approach Christmas and as we contemplate all we will share in worship and with our family and friends at this joyous time. For many in our world  today it's not joyous or peaceful nor do they feel blessed and so as Christians we pray, we give, we connect, we support in a variety of ways and we know ourselves blessed by what we have and with those who we share.

Lots of parallels have been made with the story of the Nativity and those people who find themselves as refugees and we get that. Parallels also with rough sleepers,  sofa surfers and Shepherds, less so with Kings or wise men traveling long distances to give gifts, but as I ponder and I wonder if I am the person this year to give a gift from my richness. We know the men who came to bring the gifts, be them wise or kingly,  did not arrive a  few days after the shepherds but perhaps weeks or months  later and so perhaps we can continue to give from our richness across the days and months to come to those who need to know the light of Christ in the dark days they are experiencing.  Is this how we might connect?

Love shall be our token,

love  be yours and love be mine,

love to God and all the world,

love for plea and gift and sign.

CG Rossetti StF 210.
 

Blessings this Christmas and a very happy New Year!

Loraine


Chair's India Blog


KOLKOTA OCTOBER 2016

"By blood I am Albanian,  by citizenship  I am Indian, by faith I am a catholic nun. As to my calling I belong to the world, as to my heart I belong entirely to the heart of Jesus."  Mother Teresa.

It was very moving at her tomb today and being given a prayer card and MT symbol was especially poignant as I was told by the sister I was a child of God and working for the same God. Won't forget today in a hurry.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Last day in Kolkata

My last day and the best was last a visit to the Mother House of Mother Theresa when I was given a prayer card and symbol which I will of course treasure. Visit to the Boskati project a home for orphaned boys run by CNI and the TB hospital. TB is rife here not just chest but also spine which is accompanied by intense pain and the patients are often young girls. You will see the mother and baby born while in hospital and she will stay for at least a year. Then to St Thomas school where I got asked lots of questions about culture in England- where do you start! Back home tomorrow when I will be travelling for 21 hours! Lots of time to reflect upon this amazing visit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DAY FIVE

Well, what a celebration of 150 years of the Wesleyan church. Lots of ceremony, joy, the obvious presence of God a people who  are so appreciative of their Methodist heritage and are faithful and so generous in welcome. A great honour for me and privilege to represent the churches together in Derbyshire but also the whole of the British Connexion.  This visit will stay long in my memory and the people I have met in my heart. The sheep and goats are the welcome committee outside of church so could not resist the photograph. Sermon there I think. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You travel thousands of miles and find yourself using a hymn book from home! Thank you Sherwood Methodists for your generosity your hymn books are still used twice per month in the Wesleyan church in Kalkota.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cultural day today hosted by the David sisters members of the Wesleyan church. First St Johns the oldest church in Kolkota with a very interesting picture of the last supper. Traditional Bengali lunch when I noticed an interesting notice behind the toilet door. Everything that is supplied in order for you to enjoy the delicious food. Then a visit to the New Market famous through all of India full of vibrancy, colour and smells yet reassuringly like markets at home.  Now for a couple of hours rest before the rehearsals for tomorrow's anniversary service.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DAY FOUR  

 

Today I have been hosted by the ‘Cathedral Relief Service' and its director Rig David and the staff he works with. A special mention must go to Cheryl who was pleased that I now know two Cheryl’s both who work for the church on two  different continents.  But also mention to Kuheli, Tandra, Kali, Jagdev and Ritaparna who talked with such eloquence and passion about the projects they had grown and developed. I have seen three types of projects, Education, Women’s empowerment and Health. These are all inspiring projects in the slum area of Kolkata. The photographs are of the children, 30 or so to a class and you can see the conditions under which the teachers  are working, yet many of the children get into government schools as they pass the entrance exam.

The policy and strap line for CRS is ‘Building communities  of resistance and hope” and that is exactly what I  saw in action. The lady doing Cheryl’s eyebrows trained as a beautician in one of the projects and now has her own salon, this  is a fantastic achievement of how women are being empowered. Women’s empowerment is a important focus for CRS and considering that India is very patriarchal society its the women who are taking  their families out of poverty. They are forming what we would call co-operatives and at festival times they take the jewellery, napkins, clothes and the many things they have made in the projects and they sell them and take orders and you cant not be impressed by the quality of the work, again in such cramped and confined spaces, often hot and sticky and with one or  two sewing machines, yet most of the work I saw was done by hand. They learn first by making small replicas and then graduate to the normal sizes.  Each project had a teaching plan for each month of the year and  by looking at them you can see the progression form simple embroidery to making there own clothes. 

You will also see on the photographs people queuing in the street to see the Dr who is sat in the back of the vehicle and I am never going to complain again when I am kept waiting at my GP’s  surgery. The main problems are malnutrition,  iron deficiency and infections and you can understand that when you see the streets we had to walk down to get to the projects we were visiting. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The photograph near to the CRS vehicle is the women mentioned at the top of this article who are in overall charge of the projects and what a amazing group of women they are. 

I recognised something today I think I knew already, that the deprivation and the problems are of such a magnitude that we cant begin to support every project, but support something we must. There are 20 million people living in Kolkata alone and the work that is being done by the churches and the different relief agencies are just about skimming the surface of the issues and what there is no doubt about is that they are making a difference to  children and  having  a huge impact on the lives of women. 

Jesus commands us to love our neighbour and this week I have been overwhelmed with the  generosity of my neighbour.  I came here to Kolkata to learn, to listen and to take part in the 150th celebrations but I have gained so much, everywhere I have been I have been given gifts. [see the last photograph]  Gifts given from a place of poverty, but given from a place of a faith which is rich and lives by Gods grace. All my conversations have been about how God provides and its interesting how poor I feel knowing that I could not live in the squalid conditions I have seen and experienced today. Ending the day with much to reflect upon again!

 

DAY THREE

Day three turned out to be a very salutary experience yet challenging and hopeful all at the same time. When in Delhi three years ago I felt a sense of hopelessness I am not feeling that here in Kolkata, I have met some people today who are doing a great job under what can only be described as primitive conditions working in a country that is only 2.8% Christian yet 

sharing the gospel in real ways where it's not just about mission but also evangelism.

I first went to the Arunima hospice who care for people who have been rejected by their families due to HIV Aids and are needing care. Men and women who looked dreadfully ill and were suffering from all types of conditions as a result of the HIV Aids. Two rooms, one for men and one for women with 25 beds in total, in tin roof buildings with primate washing facilities and toilets. The only hospice of its kind and in England we would think we were back in the dark ages, such were the conditions. On the same small complex is the orphanage again for children rejected due to HIV Aids. I took part on the morning devotions and I was so impressed by the readings [in English], violin playing, traditional dancing and hymn singing. The children looked cared for, happy and well, and what a welcome as I was shown with such pride the memorial stone which indicated that it had been officially opened by Deacon Eunice Attwood when she was Vice President. The vision now is for £50K to extend the building by two floors.

I was then taken just a few hundred yards to the Sister Florence College of Nursing and met Reena Bose RN, RM, M.Sc, [N] Dip. [H Ed.] now advisor to the college. She shared with me her vision which she has passed to me and what a formidable woman, who at 82 still come daily to oversea the college even though she is officially retired. She was principal for 50 years. I was shown round the college and saw where the nursing students live for 4 years with just with a bed and a shelf for personal clothes and possessions. I could not help but compare it to my nurse training school with all our high tech machines and facilities. I met the nurse tutors all of whom are graduate level with B. Sc and higher degrees and the commitment was just phenomenal.

I was shown with such pride the overhead projector which they prefer to the laptop and protector which only comes out of the office very occasionally. Every Student nurse is given a set of equipment to start them off which includes a stereoscope, uniform, bucket for washing and folder for notes. They are taught in English and interestingly many of them go to the states to work and not England as they don't feel they would be welcomed even with the qualification of Registered nurse and midwife. I think this says a lot about our country.

 

 

So what now is my mission? Reena is concerned that teachers and curates are going over to India and she wants to know why not nurses? She is happy to pay for nurses to come to us if we can provide hospitality and the experience and so now I am on the look out for any nurse who wants to talk to me about this possibility. I don't really want nurses to come over to England and go to Manchester where I still have contacts, I want them to come to Derbyshire. There will then be the possibility of a return trip to Kolkata. So if you are reading this and you are a nurse or you know one then please let me know and let's try and make this happen.

The photographs are of the children and also the nursing tutors, the training rooms and the project they do before they go to work in the village on placement trying to understand how the village organises itself.

 

What a day! When I feel honoured once again to be here and to have SRN at the side of my name even though it's never used now and to appreciate how much I gained from my training and how richly blessed we were in our school during and by our ward placements. More news hopefully tomorrow when I am visiting projects that are supported by the cathedral mission agency in Kolkota.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DAY TWO

My second breakfast of the day,  I was woken at 6am today by my  breakfast that I had not ordered!  Last night was really interesting as I had dinner  with RupKatha and Arun Sarkar. Rupkatha is the principle of  La Martiniere Girls school,  the best  school in India according to the Indian Ofsted. The biggest challenge is for girls with special educational needs and as  girls come  into the school at 2 they have no way of knowing at that stage how the girls are going to develop so the school is looking  at what the SEN provision should be. Arun is the principle of the AOG college and so we talked about the training needs of ministerial  students. I did not know that there are 5000 AOG churches in India. We were joined by a very interesting  woman, Finella, a maths teacher from London whose mother had attended the school many years ago and also a male colleague of RupKatha who was the principle of one of the local schools in the area and had just attended a very interesting conference.   Really wide ranging conversation and its then you realise how similar the issues are in education and how so many people are striving to enable our young people and ministerial   student to be the best they can be and to make the most of the opportunity  of learning, I am not able to post photos due to the limited wifi but will do  so  as soon as I can.

 

DAY ONE

Phase two completed,  Now arrived in Kalkota. Dubai is always an interesting  experience last night it was a 20 minutes walk 4 escalators and a train and still within  the same terminal!  I am now at the Lytton Hotel in Kolkota.  Things occasionally in India are not as they seem and no  WIFI in the rooms so now I am camped at the reception desk courtesy of the  receptionists who given me the private code just for this area! My first meeting is tonight  so now for some emails! Thank you to everyone for your prayers they are much appreciated.

 


October 2016

Dear friends,

In a few days time I will be flying to Calcutta to join in the celebrations and to preach at the  150th anniversary of the first Wesleyan church. What an honour I have been afforded by our friends in India.

I am representing churches together for Derbyshire, as many of you  know we have a link with the church in North India.  

Also as part of my time in Calcutta I have a very full programme of various visits to projects and schools and I am very grateful to the district who have given me a bursary of £300 towards my travel and to the many friends and colleagues who will be praying for my visit. (Bursaries are available for ministers for visits to world church partners). 

It's just three years since I was last in India and I wrote on that occasion how much I was challenged by what I experienced and have been able to share much of those experiences around the district and I hope to do so again in the coming months.

In 2017 we celebrate 40 years of our partnership and in May hope to have some people from India come and share with us.

  • Did you know teachers from schools in Derbyshire have been to India?
  • Did you know that every year people from our Methodist churches along with our ecumenical friends  visit various parts of India to engage in mission and support a variety of projects?
  • Did you know that last year we had a number of visits from India to the district where people were able to share there stories?

These are just three examples of ways in which our partnership is manifest along with local churches that link with churches in numerous locations in the church of North India.  Some of our Derbyshire  circuits are very involved in funds raising too  which is very  much appreciated  by the projects they support.  Many  people talk to me about how this link has helped their faith to grow and how money raising to support projects is important, but how much more it means to share, to experience, to be involved, and the recognition of how thankful they are for the many blessings we have and a deep sense of thankfulness to God and how this involvement has influenced discipleship.

Next spring the curates from the Derby Diocese will travel to India as part of their formational training.  Please support them with your prayers. It would be wonderful if we could support our probationers to give them an experience of a world church partner visit  as I think visits like this give us a view of mission and ministry which changes our perspective and deepens our understanding of God and can only add to our appreciation of our multi cultural wonderful world.

Please do watch our Nottingham and Derby Facebook page where every day during my visit, Wifi permitting, I will try and post news of what I have been up to and if you follow me it will also appear on my page.

God bless

Loraine

 


Dear Friends and Colleagues

By now you may have realised that I have been designated as President of the Methodist Church for 2017/18. I consider this to be a great honour and privilege and I look forward to travelling around the Connexion and meeting our Methodist people. I am grateful to those who nominated me, but most of all I am grateful to God for his love, care, blessings and the honour of serving his church in this way. I am thankful too for the many expressions of ...congratulations from around the Connexion and especially from the District for the cards, texts, emails, letters, flowers and gifts, the generosity and prayer support has been truly overwhelming.

You may be wondering what this entails and what happens in the District during my time as President. Well first let me reassure you that the District will be in the very safe and capable hands of Revd Mike Redshaw and Revd Paul Worsnop as Deputy Chairs and the District team.

The presidency is over a three year period: During year one I will be attending a variety of meetings some of which I already attend in my role as Chair. This of course will increase and Mike, Paul and I have been working together now for some months and have already agreed what roles we share and we feel this has been working well. We now all offer preaching appointments across the District, pastoral care is now much more coordinated and we have been able to respond to requests coming to us from the Superintendents. We are also continuing Prayerfest until the end of the calendar year and also a new initiative which we hope to inform you of soon that we have called “Chair’s team talks" this will be coming to a church near you in the new Connexional year.

In year two you will see much less of me though I do intend to honour any preaching appointments I have already made for 2017/18 in the district . During this year I will travel the Connexion encouraging the Methodist people and I hope you will pick up a prayer card and follow Jill Baker the Vice President and I as we travel around. I will endeavour to put as many updates on social media as I can. The arrangements for the District will be on the agenda at the District Executive when we meet in September and we will of course keep you fully informed.

In year three I will be back in the District and it will be much like year one and picking up the Chair's role again. I hope this gives you a flavour of the next three years and I will of course update this page when further information is available to us. I know I serve the best District in the Connexion, and I am very confident about us being able to work together in the coming months and years and as I travel around the Connexion I will be telling lots of stories about the great things that are happening here as we seek to serve God and build his kingdom.

In prayer

Loraine

 


January 2016

 

Dear Friends,

You will have noticed of course that this year is 2016. You may not have noticed that we have 16 circuits in the district. I have known that God had been prompting me for some time now to do 'something' around the district, but I was never sure what, and every time I had what I thought was a God/good idea something got in the way, that is until now. This God/good idea has stayed with me for months now so I am sharing it having spoken about it to the Superintendents.

To me, prayer is essential in any church and to every disciple and you can often tell the quality of a church by its prayer life and the quality and depth of a person's faith by how significant and seriously they take prayer.  I also know that when we are busy our prayer life often suffers. I know from experience that the most successful missions and initiatives have prayer at the heart and achieve results.  I know too that churches that are growing are the ones where there are prayer groups, where prayer is the priority in church life, and where the prayer group is lively and active, and where God shows up and miracles happen, prayers are answered. I know too, of churches where a lot of people turn up for the breakfast prayer meeting, or the prayer before worship or the evening gathering, and some where it's a few faithful souls who week by week, month by month turn up and pray their socks off. So you may have gathered by now I want to encourage people to pray in 2016 and to pray in groups, or with a partner or partners, or if that is not possible then on your own.

At the Synod on the 9th of April 2016 PRAYERFEST will be launched and between then and May 22nd I will be going around the district praying for at least 1 hour in every circuit.  That is 16 hours of prayer in 16 circuits in 2016.

So what needs to happen now?  Please check out the details with your Superintendent and then your role is to encourage people to attend your PRAYERFEST gathering. You may also like to come to the end of Synod on Saturday the 9th of April as PRAYERFEST is launched when we will be encouraging more people to get involved.  Find out which venue is hosting your PRAYERFEST.  Your circuit PRAYERFEST does not only need to last for 1 hour, that it up the circuits, but I am going to turn up for at least one hour. As soon as dates, times and venues are agreed they will be posted here, the Twitter feed and the Facebook page so if you can't attend PRAYERFEST in your circuit why not come to a neighbouring circuit and you can of course attend more than one PRAYERFEST event. Watch this space PRAYERFEST is coming to a venue near you in 2016.

In prayer

Loraine  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


                                     

January 2016

 

New Year Message

 

As we leave 2015 behind and look forward to the New Year no doubt many of us will be hoping 2016 brings fewer news stories of suffering and destruction than we have experienced in the last year. It is easy to become weighed down and despondent, depressed even, by the sheer volume of ‘bad news’ stories on our TV screens, on the websites and in our newspapers. 

However, we should reflect that the media prefer ‘bad news’ stories because they are more sensational and more immediate than stories about good things that are going on in the world and this is especially true at the national and international level. ‘Good news’ stories tend to be about things which develop over a longer period of time – such as advances in medical science, people overcoming huge difficulties and disabilities, peace-making, help and kindness shown to such as refugees – and are thus inherently less newsworthy. Those kind of ‘Good News’ stories do tend to receive more coverage in local news media and we can often relate to the people involved or even know them – a good reason to watch and read them!

We know too in the life of the local church that bad things tend to happen quickly whereas the undoing of them, the re-building, takes much longer.

If I had just 2 New Year resolutions which I would adopt for myself and encourage all of us ‘Good News’ people to adopt too, they would be

•    During 2016 look for the Good News stories, note them and remember them, so that when someone uses phrases like ‘Isn’t the world a terrible place’, or ‘Have you heard the terrible news about...’ you have a Good News story to counter it with. Not to minimise the real suffering that too many people experience, but to bring a little balance into the conversation and encourage people to see that there is actually a lot of good in the world and a lot of good people too.

•    Ask ourselves ‘What can I do to create some Good News?’ We all have many opportunities every day to bring good news to people – it could just be by valuing the checkout person in the supermarket by smiling or talking to them, or by going out of our way to help someone who is having a difficult time, or it could be by taking that opportunity to explain the hope we have or to offer to pray for someone. Many of our churches are involved in organisations which actively seek to bring good news to people – through foodbanks, supporting refugees, getting involved in Safe Families for Children, as well as the activities churches themselves organise. If you’re not involved in something like that already I would encourage you to find out about them, pray to be led to wherever your gifts and skills fit best and then just do it, with a smile!

Let’s all become part of a ‘Good News’ story in 2016, as individuals and through our churches and Circuits. I look forward to hearing about them!

Wishing you and yours every blessing in 2016


Paul Worsnop
Deputy Chair of the District

 


December 2015

Christmas Letters

 

The ‘Daily Telegraph on line’, which I don't usually read, I read today, Monday December 7th, as I was attracted to a headline about ’Round Robin Christmas letters’ which  proved to be in an article by Deborah Robertson.

She does not like them at all and she talks about the fact that they are often not honest, they don't spread joy and all they do is make people feel angry and sad. She comments that we don't have to go into great detail about the exploits of our children, and she calls letters that do this as the writer ‘claiming bragging rights’.

She also comments why do we think our family and friends need to know how we spent our holidays and why do we insist on telling them to have a special New Year!  So this Christmas she is on a quest to have an amnesty on ‘Round Robin’ letter writing that she calls sheer madness.

Ms Robertson, I totally disagree with you! I love to receive the Christmas letter from family and friends we don't see very often or haven't seen at all in the last year. I love to hear about the children and how they are doing at school or at the gym club or Brownies or whatever it is they are interested in and I don't see them as ‘bragging rights’ but of proud, interested parents and grandparents. The letters don't make me feel sad or angry, they bring joy and remind me as I read them to pray for the people I am reading about.  I also like to hear about holidays as it gives me ideas for places we may not have visited. But more than anything else the letters remind me of special times we have spent with the writers of the letters, of long standing friendships, of colleagues that we have worked with, of family times, of a journey that has taken us around the country and where we have grown in our faith journey, often as a result of being with these people in fellowship, in worship, in prayer and through the good times and the not so good.

I hope this Christmas time as you receive the cards and letters that they bring a sense of joy to your life too, that you rejoice in all you read and give thanks for the letter writers. That the letters remind us not of the cynical world in which we live but that as Christians we can be different and counter cultural as we live out our faith.

 

We are counter cultural today as people of faith but the story of the incarnation is never that, it’s as culturally relevant as any story. It's a story of two precious people who have very little, have very possibly been ridiculed by the people in the village where they live. They have nowhere to stay and have to use a borrowed stable. Then in the midst of the joy of the birth of their son they are once more on the move running in fear of their lives.

 

I don't need to be so blunt as to point out the ‘obvious parallels’ with our world today they are there for all to see. But perhaps what I do need to point out, if only to myself, is the way in which I can be counter cultural and refuse to be swayed by the cynicism, the negativity and the ‘blame and claim’ culture around me in newspapers and the TV and people who I meet, and be a faithful person as I can be sharing the good news of the Christ child who comes once more into our hearts this Christmas time.  A story very relevant to our time. 

 

May God continue to bless you, your family and friends this Christmas time.

 

Loraine


July 2015

2015 Methodist Conference

 

I have just returned from the Methodist conference held in Southport.  It’s been a very challenging and joyous 9 days.

I was Challenged by my chair colleagues as we thought about working across district boundaries for probationers, candidates for ministry, discipline and reconciliation issues. Challenged always in the ministerial session at the service where we were surrounded by grieving families. We give thanks for those ministers who have served the church and now rest in peace.

Challenged about our relationships with the World church and how much we can learn from our partners. Challenged by the traditional hymn 'and are we yet alive'.  Profoundly Challenged by the findings of the past cases review. Challenged by the debate on sharing the sacraments through social media and reaffirmation of baptismal vows.  Challenged by our two young reps to conference who did us proud, Jessica and Tim, who spoke from the tribune with passion and with confidence.

I Rejoiced in seeing old friends sharing over hurried meals and rushing from place to place to pack as much in as possible. Rejoiced in seeing Steve Wild and Jill Barber become President and Vice President and what joy they both brought to our proceedings. Rejoiced in being given the enormous privilege of preaching at an ordination service and serving the newly ordained and their families bread and wine.  Rejoiced in being able to worship every day with gifted leaders and musicians where the 300 plus voices rang out joyously for both the traditional and the newer worship songs.  Rejoiced every night as I climbed into bed and at the same time Challenged by the loud music coming from the disco below!

Challenged by staying in a very old tired hotel but joyous that I had a bed every night and I could cope for 10 days as it’s a privilege to serve the church I love with a passion and who I only want the best for.

My contribution to conference won't be remembered but Southport 2015 will live long in my memory. Why? Because we were about the work of God. We might not have made all the right decisions, we might not have discussed all that people wanted us to, but what we did do we did on behalf of every Methodist member and we did it thoughtfully, considerately and prayerfully.  

Conference is not everybody's cup of tea but it's mine and I am proud to be a part of it and to be Methodist.
 

Loraine

More information can be found on the National Methodist website

 


December 2014

Matthew 1 : 18- 25

 

Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. 20But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord...appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.’ 22All this took place to fulfil what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: 23 ‘Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel’, which means, ‘God is with us.’ 24When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife, 25but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son;* and he named him Jesus.

Have you have heard the story about the young woman who boarded a plane at Manchester bound towards New York. The young woman was tired. She knew it would be a long flight, so immediately she asked the flight attendant for a pillow and a blanket. She hoped to be able to sleep most of the way to New York. Her head had just nestled into the pillow when an obnoxious man with a loud, booming voice boarded the plane and sat down beside her. He tapped her on the shoulder and said, “Hi It’s going to be a long flight, so to pass the time, would you like to play a fun game?” Politely, she declined and rolled over toward the window to sleep. However, the man persisted saying the game is really easy and lots of fun. He explained how the game works: “I ask you a question and if you don’t know the answer, you pay me, and visa-versa.” Again, she politely declined and settled into her pillow. The man figured that since she was an attractive young woman he would easily win, so arrogantly he made another offer. “Okay, how about this? If you don’t know the answer, you pay me £5.00, but if I don’t know the answer, I will pay you £500.00.” This caught the young woman’s attention and she figured that there would be no end to this unless she played, so finally she agreed to play the game. The man asked the first question. “What’s the distance from the earth to the moon?” The young woman didn’t say a word. She just reached into her purse, pulled out a five-pound note and handed it to the man. “O.K., O.K.,” the man said. “Now it’s your turn. Ask me a question, any question.” She said, “What goes up the hill with three legs and comes down with four?” The man looked at her with a puzzled expression. But then he grabbed his laptop computer and searched all his references. No luck! After an hour or more of searching his computer, asking the people around him annoying the stewardesses for the answer he finally gave up… he tapped the young woman on the shoulder to wake her up and he handed her a cheque for £500.00. Politely, she took the money, put it in her purse and turned away and nestled back into her pillow. “Wait a minute,” said the man. “What is the answer?” Again, without a word, the young woman reached into her purse, handed him a £5.00 note and went back to sleep!

That is what I call rising to the occasion I don't know if it’s a true story but I want it to be and “rising to the occasion” is precisely what we see Joseph doing in the bible reading. With the help of God, Joseph rises to a most difficult occasion. Joseph an older man, we are not sure of his age was a carpenter of Nazareth when found himself in a tremendously challenging situation, a heart-wrenching problem. He was jolted by the news that his fiancée, Mary, was expecting a child before they were together, before he knew her as a wife. Joseph was upset he loved Mary and he did not want to ridicule her or embarrass her. He was agonising over how to handle this difficult situation. And then he had this encounter with an angel speaking to him from God “Joseph, don’t be afraid. Go ahead and take Mary for your wife. The Spirit is with her bringing a new life. The child is of God. It is God’s will that she will bear a Son and you shall call his name Jesus. Now, when you stop to think about it, you can’t help but be inspired by the bold faith of this man called Joseph. His faith, his sensitivity, his kindness, his bigness, his compassion, and his obedience to the will of God have to be admired But, how did Joseph do it? What gave him the strength, to rise to that occasion so magnificently? Well, the answer is found in one word in this passage in Matthew 1, one word that underscores the greatest promise in the Bible, the promise of Christmas. And the word is Emmanuel which means “God is with us.”

This is what Christmas is about. This is what Jesus is about. “a virgin shall bear a son and his name shall be called Emmanuel, which means, ‘God is with us.’” Now, the impact of this promise is incredible. When you believe that “God is with us,” when you accept that, when you claim that promise, it will absolutely change your life! That’s what happened to Joseph at the first Christmas and it can happen for you and me and the strength that comes from this amazing promise can empower us and enable us to rise to any occasion.

Let’s pray that “God is with us” does indeed mean that for each and every one of us this Christmas as we worship, as we celebrate, as we spend time with our family and our friends and rejoice and be glad as we look into the manger and experience once more the light of the world.



Loraine


Chair of the District

 


 

Summer 2014

 

I am writing this while in Scarborough as in about 12 hours’ time I will come to the end of my 7th ECG experience.  ECG is 5 days of teaching and worship celebrations. ECG stands for “Equipping, Calling, Going, a heart for the nations”. It's a Christian event held every year usually the week after Easter but this year moved due to school holidays to over the May bank Holiday weekend. At ECG, if you wish, you can start at 830 with communion and if you have the stamina keep going till 1115 when the fringe finishes.

This year we opted for the bible studies at 11 lead by Revd Dr Steve Brady who is the principle of Morelands Bible College and he was brilliant. You could also go to a study on St John's gospel led by Revd Dr Calvin Samuel the principal at St John's College Durham.  The theme has been heroes and we have spent four mornings looking at Lot, Judah, Jacob and Joseph. Approximately 2 thousand people sat rapt as he shared the bible study and gave insights into the characters and how we can look at their lives and the impact on our faith and discipleship today.

The afternoon brings a number of seminars all aimed at equipping the delegates for mission and discipleship back in their own churches. These have been challenging with a wide variety of speakers from different traditions that brought many good ideas and stimulating conversation.

The evening comes with a choice of two celebrations with some very good preachers and teachers who addressed the same themes of heroes. In the evening celebrations we experienced excellent worship, with a mixture of old and new and not so new hymns and worship songs in fact something for every taste and the band led us with such sensitivity. The late evening brought three or four choices of fringe events from the traditional chat show to bands showcasing their own music and some famous names among them to while away the last hour or two before bed.

The Spa centre in Scarborough is a very good venue for youth events and children activities all running alongside each other and it is so good to see more young people again this year and many more people in the 18 to 30 age group.  Families have time to experience all age worship with “Arise ministries” and numerous age specific activities and plenty of time for afternoons on the beach.

Scarborough has accommodation from large hotels to bed and breakfast and self-catering to suit every pocket. It’s also the ideal seaside town to give opportunity for delegates, if they wish, to work with local churches in helping them achieve on some short small scale mission projects.  

It's been good too for small churches that have come on mass to experience worship and teaching on a bigger scale and been good to share with numerous people from around the district.  

Why do I come year after year? I come to support young Christian leaders who are members of the organising group. I come to learn and be challenged. I come to meet old friends and make new ones. I come to worship. I come to pray and learn from others about what it means to be a disciple today. I come to get new ideas and find out what's going on in other parts of the church that are not Methodist churches.   I come to experience good preaching and teaching.  I come to be equipped to be a better disciple. I come because I believe I have a responsibility to support and encourage others. I mainly come because I believe if I don't I will stagnate and stop growing as a Christian disciple.

Next year we are back in Scarborough the week after Easter. Why not join the many that come from different parts of the district, different parts of the county and different denominations and experience it for yourself?

Just go to Google and type in ECG conference for more information or take a look at the Face book page for this year’s event. 

God bless

Loraine

 


April 2014

 

Dear Friends,

Lent, it's that time of year again.  I wonder what you have been reflecting on this Lent? Do you feel as a result of your reflecting and your studying you are growing in faith? Have you perhaps read a theological stimulating book? Have you changed your daily devotional reading? Have your changed your pattern of prayer? Have you been challenged by the preaching you have heard?  I have been reflecting and praying around the issues of church growth and what holds the church together when society seems to wants little to do with us and commentators are questioning if we have any right to take the moral high ground!

I have been encouraging the district executive to think seriously about our policies, vision and strategy and hoping that together we can develop a five-year plan. The comments received and our conversations have been interesting, you see I remain fully committed to “G4G”, going for growth and I believe that when people have direction, vision, strategy and leadership great things can happen in terms of our discipleship and mission.  I don't just say this, I know it from experience.

The church of England has just reported on research carried out over a 2-year period around this area of church growth and it's timely in Lent as we reflect deeply on our calling and as we journey to the cross. The findings are no surprise; they have concluded that the common ingredients of growth are:
 

·         Good leadership

·         A clear mission and purpose

·         Willingness to be self-reflect, to change and adapt according to context.

·         Involvement of lay members

·         Being intentional in prioritising growth

·         Being Intentional in chosen style of worship

·         Being intentional in nurturing disciples

 

All these things are linked with growing churches. One of the things I notice around the connexion is that we are doing lots of good missional activities but are we concentrating our efforts specifically as indicated above. The other thing I have observed is that we are, due to a number of reasons, reducing the numbers of our ordained ministers. We are also employing in larger numbers lay staff, many of which are doing a great job. But when I asked why a family worker was being employed when 80% of the people living around the church according to the national census are over the age of 65, I got some blank faces. No one had looked at the community demographics; they had just thought it was a good thing. Well it is to get younger people in our churches but would that family worker not be better employed in a community with lots of young families?

The research also tells us that when ordained ministers have multiples of churches, growth is not seen! Now that is interesting but we know that, we don’t have to be told, we are experiencing it in our own denomination.  Watch this space for news about the pastor in every church training programme. We Methodists seem to want to know who our minister is and it seems to me what has happened over the years is local preachers have become itinerant and presbyters have become local. 

So, the research is not telling us a lot we already know, though still valuable reading. {Supers received a copy of the report in the synod boxes} it’s called “Anecdote to Evidence” and can be download at http://www.churchgrowthresearch.org.uk/report   Andrew Carter our Mission development worker is also available to talk through the report with you if you want to learn more.  

I wonder sometimes you see because I don't buy into the church is dying narrative, if we talk about death and tell stories of decline we believe it. So what about the stories of growth and how can we reverse the trend? How can we begin to tell stories of growth, how can we move for a place of collaboration and not competition. How can we stop building churches and build up people? How can we get to a position of releasing our ministers from maintenance ministry to growth ministry? In other words, release them from having to look after lots of churches and concentrate where there is strategy and vision and all the ingredients named above.  How can we release our lay people to lead and work out what it means to be disciples today? How can we pastor every church and help each other to appreciate the gifts and graces we each bring?

How can we become theologically literate missional communities of growth? Ideas on a post card!  No, I think not. However, what I to do is hear from you, the person in the pew, our Sunday worshippers, our messy church families, those of you who use our churches, those of you who feel you don’t have a voice. You tell me what you think we should be doing to help our church grow. Are you up for the challenge? I believe the Nottingham and Derby District can change the Methodist connexion or at least our part of it and really go for growth.

Someone said “the only constant in life is change”. Are you prepared to change the way you do church to see it grow?  Speak to your minister or your superintendent and get them to invite me or if you are a minister invite me please, let’s make the change together.  Lent a time to journey to the cross, the hard bits of agony, desolation wilderness, challenge but it leads to glorious resurrection we are Easter people and for that we thank God.

Every blessing

Loraine  


 

February 2014 

‘Being held’ A personal story

 

The end of January was especially difficult for us as a family as our daughter in law Ali died. She was 33 and even though she had been in hospital since August, her death came very suddenly, unexpectedly and left us bewildered and hurting. Yet through it all we have been truly blessed.

Blessed by the ministry of my Methodist colleagues and other ecumenical colleagues in the Wolverhampton circuit where Steve, our son, and Ali live.  Blessed by friends and colleagues here in the district.  Blessed through the prayer support we have received. Blessed through the literally hundreds of cards that have come from all over the Methodist connexion, from churches which just said ‘we prayed for you today in our worship’. Blessed through the timely phone calls of friends from far and wide. Blessed by text messages, emails, flowers, and the love of the Methodist people. Blessed through the hundreds of pounds in donations in memory of Ali for Wolverhampton Pioneer Ministries. Blessed supremely by almighty God who gave light in a dark place, who provided people who dried our tears and laughed with us, who have hugged us, cried with us, prayed with us and listened as we talked and as we remembered and gave thanks for Ali and all she meant to us.  Blessed by people who gave us space.  Blessed as people travelled for hours in awful weather and traffic to come to the funeral and service of thanksgiving.

I always say I am never more proud to be a Methodist than at conference weekend when we induct the new president and vice president. When we meet the ordinands and receive them into full connexion and send them off to be ordained and then the climax of the weekend the ordinations ‘They are worthy’.   Four weeks after Ali death it is still very raw and the hole still gapes, but I am proud to be a part of a Methodist family and grateful for the nurturing I and my family have received. Grateful for the faith journey I have come and that Steve, John and I can say, due to the body of Christ this church, HIS CHURCH, we have a faith which sustains us.

In time we will feel whole again, we know that and in the mean time we trust in a God who knows us, love us and cherishes us. We cannot begin to articulate that in words really, we just feel it, know it almost imperceptibly. We have known and have felt the wave of prayer support, and faith at times like this grows. Words from hymns and worship songs become much more meaningful, you notice them and we have sung our faith.

At the service of worship in memory of Ali we heard those gospel words of assurance ‘you have the words of eternal life’ we believe this and we know it to be true and we sang 'My Jesus, My Saviour ........the wonders of your mighty love'.  We know this love.  We know too as a faithful Christian Ali experiences a pain free, eternal life secure in the arms of a God who cherished and loves her and we are thankful for that.

Experiencing death is hard, you feel vulnerable, fearful at times, emotionally shattered and at times you wonder if life is ever going to be the same and it's not because you can't go back.   I questioned myself did I give Ali enough time, was I the typical mother in law from hell! Not at all rational because I know we had a normal loving relationship. The other thing I questioned myself about was in terms of my ministry. When in circuit ministry how good I was at doing funerals? Did I really understand what families were going though?  Did I give them enough time, was I sympathetic, understanding, did I share the gospel for families that did not go to church but wanted a faith person to conduct the funeral? Did I offer the assurance of eternal life? Did I understand and care for congregations when a long standing member died? 

Through my career in the health service and now in ministry I discovered Kubler Ross’s   work on bereavement and used to think she had got it right and was spot on in her analysis. Even though I have experienced death of my close family before, it always been family members who are older and you sort of expect that, I don't think Kubler Ross has got it absolutely right any  more when she talks of the stages of grief. She does acknowledge that everyone is different but I think having a faith impacts more than she discerns. I also think her work does not and cannot take into consideration the impact and changes in society since her work was first researched. As a people we have changed, society has changed; culturally we are a different people. We are impacted in a myriad of ways by technology, by the media, by how we live our lives. By a world which is so much smaller and we have experienced a divergence in society which means we are individualistic, but also isolationist and that means we grieve differently now than we did 60 years ago. Or at least that is what I think!  But how can that be you might well ask, grief is grief?  Well it's my theory and only mine from personal experience, a woman of faith and one who thinks we have to live out what we believe. But then who am I to challenge a celebrated authority!

I end by saying "Thank you Methodist people for being Christ like" thank you for helping us on this journey we still travel, for being in the struggle with us and for holding us. Now we see in a mirror dimly then we shall see face to face.

In prayer

 

Loraine


 

January 2014

 

The first or sometimes the second Sunday of the New Year is the Sunday when as Methodist we renew our covenant and it’s a significant date for us.

You know about ‘pick and mix’ sweets where you can pick according to your personal choice.  The Covenant Service, with all its words, and potential promises, may encourage ‘pick and mix’ and ‘cherry picking’, rather than take it as it is.  For example, you could pick, from ‘Christ has many services to be done’ the ones that are easy, bring honour, suitable to our natural inclinations and material interests, those which please Christ and please ourselves, and we could mix them with ‘Your will be done – when there is work for me, when I am at peace, when I am valued, when I find fulfilment, and when I have all things.

Such a selection would make Christianity not only very attractive, but easy, and ego boosting. The churches could be filled to overflowing if that were the gospel on offer. But it isn’t.

On the other hand, no-one in their right mind would deliberately pick the services that are difficult, which bring reproach, those which are contrary to our natural inclinations and material interests, the ones where we cannot please Christ except by denying ourselves, and we would not mix them with doing God’s will where there is no work to do, when we are troubled, when we are disregarded, when fulfilment is lacking, when we have nothing. Such a selection, if offered by the churches, would be guaranteed to empty them of all except sado-masochists!  But that gospel is not on offer either.   We 'take what comes' because… Such ‘pick and mixing’, such ‘cherry picking’, is foreign to an authentic Christian faith, which takes what comes, and which seeks, above all else, to be faithful to the God who offers us a covenant with himself. And what matters, is that ‘the power to do all these things is given to us in Christ, who strengthens us.’

The covenant is not a gospel of good works, but a gospel of grace. It is not a gospel of us trying to please God, but a gospel of God coming to us with strength and mercy. That is why, whatever our circumstances, whatever our faith, we make the covenant of God our own, giving ourselves to him, trusting in his promises and relying on his grace.

 

Loraine 

 


 

Christmas 2013

 

It’s funny how some years a particular Christmas song seems to be sung more than others and you hear it everywhere. For me this year it’s been the ‘12 days of Christmas’.

Like you do in an odd moment, I was left wondering what it would be like to have delivered, Maids milking, Swans swimming, Lords leaping, Calling Birds and Gold rings ……. You get my drift and then the wondering moved on to “what would I have for the church, for the district, if I could choose twelve gifts?  Well here they are, not really thought out, developed or profound and not in any order.  


1:  24/7 prayer around the district: to have a particular time frame when all the churches would participate in praying together.

2: For each circuit to have a pioneer missioner who would purposefully grow a new congregation.

3: For each of us to fully appreciate what the Connexional charisms are and cherish them.

4: For new partnerships to develop naturally across circuits and districts and with our world church partners, where bigger help the smaller, richer the poorer and where gifts are shared.

5: For each local church to make new members in 2014.

6:  In 1952 the Faith and Order Conference of the World Council of Churches held at LundSweden agreed what we know as The Lund Principle. It’s an important principle in ecumenical relations between Christian churches. It affirms that churches should act together in all matters except those in which deep differences of conviction compel them to act separately.  I would like us to “get this”.

7: To set up a finance think tank to enable each circuit to plan for future mission and ministry  

8: For each of us to take seriously the need to inspire and challenge our people week by week in worship for the task of mission. “The worship is ended for today the service now begins”

9: For every member to take seriously what it means to be a disciple and be in a house group/fellowship where learning could be together.  

10: For every minister, local preacher and worship leader to engage in a regular learning/development programme which feeds and challenges them.

11: For each leader to be mentor/buddy to a young leader.

12: For our Methodist churches to be recognised in the media for all the good work we do in our communities.

 

I realised as I came to gift no twelve I could go on and on and so next week my twelve may be different. What would your gifts be?

Have a blessed Christmas and a peaceful New Year.

Loraine

 


 

CHAIR'S VISIT TO INDIA

 

Friday 11th October

 

Today I embarked on my first visit to India. You are probably aware that the churches in Derbyshire for many years have had a link with the church in North India and over the years many ecumenical visits have been held in both directions. Many of the churches and churches together groups have developed personal relationships with individual churches, dioceses and projects and many friendships have been formed.

I write the first part of this blog sitting in Dubai airport again a new experience, it's like a small town and like most international airports you really don't know what time of day it is!  It's busy, vibrant and teaming with people many of whom are shopping in the duty free, buying gold and expensive gifts and it's very opulent. The ladies toilets are interesting too, I expected more, but I could have chosen between disabled and French style!

I am here with a group of women clergy, two Anglicans, a Baptist, a URC and two of us Methodist along with John and Elizabeth Hurfurt who are on the Derbyshire co-ordinating group and we are here to support and encourage the church in North India in its women’s ministry. There are a few women around but not as many as they would like and some dioceses have none at all. At the moment there are no women bishops.

Today has been an interesting experience in that a few of us were unable to get money out of the cash machine at the airport, which we were told was the best method of getting the local currency. So after a sleep and some food we took a trip into the centre of Delhi. We are staying at the church of North India residence and so Ajay took us on a trip of ATM machines as Delhi turned from bright hot sunshine to dusk and it seemed to change in an instant.  I thought New York traffic was bad - it's got nothing on Delhi. It seemed liked we took our lives in our hands as we weaved in and out of traffic, a beep means get out of my space as motorcycles, cars and all sorts of vehicles argue for space on the busy frenetic roads.  We got back in time for the best Chicken Byriani I have tasted in a long time and so to bed ready for a early start tomorrow.

This morning, Friday we visited a helpline for women who are abused and was set up as a result of the girl being raped on the bus in December 2012 which you may remember made the international headlines. The project is funded by the Delhi government at a cost of £9k per year for the next 3 years after which it will be 50% funding. However, when the government wanted to do this they approached the church. The Delhi Brotherhood are 5 monks who live in community together in a very deprived area of Delhi but now as a result of their work among the poor, manage numerous projects and schools and employ more than 200 staff.

The helpline is open 24 hours every day and can take up to 1800 calls per day. They have three responders to calls and three drivers. They provide a counselling service but also a refuge for women and at any one time in the centre there are on duty two counsellors and one driver.  So very labour intensive and for the three women counsellors it's seems like a very haphazard way of working and living but they spoke with passion about their role and calling as even though Christians were not specifically advertised for, they all are. It was interesting too while at home we would think about how we could support women through a self-help group this did not feature and not seen as a way forward in the Indian culture.

Driving through the poorest neighbourhoods in Delhi was a real eye opener as under bridges we saw whole families having set up home. Refuge tips with people scavenging and people who seemed to be just aimlessly sitting around outside shops, street corners with blankness and dejection almost invading them.

This afternoon we visited a market exhibition, which we had to pay to go into and it's held every October where craftsmen and women bring the goods they have made from all the different regions of India. This place in contrast was vibrant, colourful and busy and the crafts on show and sale were numerous, from rugs, bed sheets, pashminas to wooden sculptures.

 

Saturday 12th October

 

Today Saturday the group split into 2 one groups. One group travelling by train and the other by road.  It took us 7 hours by road to reach Lidaniah the roads are toll roads and they are terrible, pot holes everywhere, diversions around villages where the major road has not been finished and drivers who drive so close to each other it's frightening. Yet since we arrived we have only seen one accident.

We stopped on the way and I asked for a coffee and I don't know how it was made but it was delicious and came with chocolate sprinkles on top - this right in the middle of nowhere, with a few benches and three little shops, I suppose the equivalent of our services on the motorway. Lunch was interesting, it was at a MacDonalds and it was much the same menu as at home with some Indian variations.  It did not have wi-fi but the petrol pump next door did and I managed to send three emails before losing the connection. We passed many shanty makeshift villages and people just sleeping on the central reservation. There is obvious deprivation everywhere you look and it's disconcerting when you stop at traffic lights to have young children dancing and singing and then expecting to be given some money, or people selling things and knocking on the car windows.

This evening Bishop Massey took us on a tour around the new church Kalgari church in Ludaniah ..a magnificent building paid for from the congregation of 680 families sacrificially giving. We would think of it as a mega church as the pastor gets about 1300 on Sunday mornings. Just near the entrance is a small building which is open from 4 am every day till 11 pm where people come to pray and as we stood outside at least 20 people came to pray and some come before work and after and it's a constant stream of people, a fantastic witness.

We then had dinner in the bishop's residence with the bishop and the principal and vice principal from the CNI school and the conversation was wide ranging from the morning prayer which is transmitted into the class room as each classroom has a loud speaker system, in English to the number of the children of Christians who go into the medical profession from doctors, nurses, lab workers and physiotherapists but interestingly not teaching or ministry. 

Tomorrow we are going with the bishop on a two hour drive where a number of villages are coming together for a confirmation service and I am doing the readings which again will be a first for me as they are translated into Punjabi or maybe Hindi I will wait and see.

 

Sunday 13th October

 

Sunday the 13th of October was another early morning and by 8am we were on the road with Bishop Massey to a confirmation service. We were unsure what time the service started but just after 10am we found ourselves in a little village Rajpour where we had lots of photographs taken, tea and cake.

We then drove a short way to the centre of the village where we were greeted and given garlands in welcome. The bishop was then encouraged onto an open top Land Rover where for 4 miles or so he was cheered on his way by motorcycles with up to 4 people on them as they sang, cheered and led the procession while we and numerous other cars followed. We then parked up the cars and processed to the church some 5 minutes away singing as we went. All we could really make out was Jesus and Hallelujah! We clapped along!

On arrival at the church at 1230ish when asked what time the service started the answer came 11am!  We were welcomed again and processed into this village church. The village is called

‘New Model Town’ and it's in the pastorate of Rajpour, which is very like a circuit but there is only one pastor for 650 families, when I asked Pastor Ravjeed what was his greatest challenge he said the ‘illiteracy of the people’.

The bishop was to confirm 45 candidates and the pastor had led them all in classes it was 10 boys and the rest young girls and older women. I got the opportunity to read the gospel (the Bishop decided the worship that had been planned was too long! So cut the other two readings, which was then translated into Hindi. It was also a service of Holy Communion and those who were confirmed received but few others when I asked about this they only ever use 1 chalice and with about 500 present it would have taken too long. It was a circuit service of three villages coming together and it felt very together and joyful even though we could not understand most of what was happening. I got the chance to speak briefly, as did Felicity our Anglican colleague who encouraged the young people to allow God to direct their lives especially the young women towards ordination. Elizabeth our Baptist colleague also spoke and congratulated the young people and told the congregation that God calls all people to follow him. John and Elizabeth also spoke to offer our thanks and reminded us that when as a partnership of churches together in Derbyshire we speak to all these high powered people like Bishops, that it's the local church and the people which make it up are the important ones.

2 and a half hours or so later we were escorted outside round to the side of the church where a huge tent had been erected and then we had what can only be described as a cultural display by the different Sunday schools. This was dancing and singing and very much like what I have experienced at home, except not usually all on the same day. What was so encouraging was how many young men were around and taking part we were all then presented with gifts of pashminas. What was really interesting was the bishop was presented with Garlands made up of what I first thought was monopoly money but it was real. I discovered later he has started a trust to help poorer children be able to go onto higher education and this was how the circuit had decided to support him. We did wonder at the time if this was a novel way of paying the assessment or paying him but our thoughts were very boring to what was the real reason.

It then took rather a long time to leave the tent as food was being served but we were to go to one of the elders houses for our food and everyone else started to sit down on the grass and have a massive picnic as tubs and tubs of piping hot food appeared as if by magic. The heat by now was about 37 and we could still seem steam rising from the food. As we tried to make our way out of the tent people wanted to greet us and I found myself having my photo taken with what seemed like a very big group of young men who I think thought me a bit of a novelty! So we had a good laugh as we tried to talk to one another my Hindi being non-existent and their English being good but as they talked so fast it was difficult to keep up especially as they kept swapping mobile phones to take photographs and tell me about themselves.

The hospitality we have received has been outstanding and what I will bring home with me.  We finally got to the elders house to eat  and I said  to a man who as helping to sort everything out ‘is this your home ‘to which he responded ‘it's Jesus's house, all we have comes from God to be used in his service’.

Our travels today have taken us through town and village and everywhere you go people are living under bridges in fields with make shift dwellings, by rivers under canvas, by the side of the road under boxes and plastic sheeting and the interesting contrast is at home our homeless people seems to move around from doorway to door way or or part of bigger communities. Here it's so different in that this is how people live normally - the dwellings are permanent.  So the solutions are easy ones and the problem is massive. The churches play a big part in supporting schools, hospitals, etc., but it did cause me to wonder about individual discipleship and how the indigenous people feel about the situation. This visit thus far has not been geared for this so I long to learn more.

As the sun was beginning to set we made our way back, another long 2-hour journey and rest before another day dawns with more adventures no doubt and much more to give thanks to God for.

 

Monday 14th October

 

Monday started early again with a visit to the school we had heard so much about at dinner on Saturday evening visiting a number of the oldest pupils 17 and 18 as they prepare to leave next summer and the 3 year olds in the Kindergarten class. It felt like going back 50 years. All the children sat in rows at desks, girls separated from boys in the older classes, very little on the walls, and most distressing of all in the kindergarten classes nothing to play with, just rows of desks and text books to write in. In the playground a number of classes were doing PE but in the same immaculate uniform and the teachers just stood in the three corners while the younger ones played a team game - the older boys football, the older girls volleyball and some children who looked about 10 playing cricket, I stood watching wanting to join in and the teachers just stood, what is this all about I wondered frustration became the overriding emotion. This is a fee paying school and they pay 1200 rupees per month per child which is about £12, which may not seem a lot but to some families it's an enormous amount of money. What was interesting and explained a lot was as we walked into the classrooms they all stood and said good morning. It was also interesting when asked in the senior classes if they wanted to ask us anything not one young person did. That has never happened to me in any school before. It explains a lot about culture and methods of teaching which is very didactic. The school is a big school and only has 2% of Christians which made me wonder why is CNI supporting this school where there was obvious wealth and not in some of the villages where some children can't even read or write. The government schools are considered to be the lowest form of education and usually shared between 4/5 villages. I needed the rest of the day to reflect on what I had seen and spent the next 7 hours in a car travelling back to Delhi. No MacDonalds this time, just a wayside snack bar with a menu that did not look at all inviting.

Tomorrow two days of meetings start as the all partner’s consultation gets underway with partners of CNI coming from all different parts of the world to discuss and debate together.

 

Tuesday 15th & Wednesday 16th October

 

Tuesday and Wednesday have been spent in the company of the overseas partners meeting in Delhi. There are people here meeting with the Church in North India (CNI) from the Church in Scotland, the Council for World Mission, the Presbyterian Church in Korea, the United Church in Canada, the United Reformed Church of the UK, the Church in South India, the Presbyterian Church of Ireland, the Church in Taiwan, the Church in New Zealand, the Uniting Church in Australia, the Presbyterian Church in the USA.

Steve Pearce is here representing the British Methodist Church along with John and Elizabeth Hurfurt. It's been a fascinating experience, yesterday we heard about some initiatives happening in the Church in North India out in the diocese. The church has some issues to tackle for example only 2 % of the population are Christian, the church is growing and has developed a mantra over the last few months "talk less, write less, do more mission" seems very sensible to me.

The issues are political, social and economic. Political in that Christians are not represented in the higher echelons of Indian society and so leadership is a problem. The CNI need people in all areas of society, as schools and hospitals are closing due to a lack of leadership and a very big concern for them is that they have no one to train evangelists which for the CNI is a priority. There is also concern about theological education for those who do not speak English and who live in the rural areas as there is no one coming forward to be trainers with the necessary qualifications.

The CNI wants to engage in local partner to partner church so that people can invest together in partnership supporting, encouraging and praying for each other. A lot of the church is experiencing persecution and help is required in how to combat this and also to learn skills in reconciliation. Many of the tribes and the Dalits are struggling with religious freedom and also with health and education.

I am here to enable women's ministry and I am discovering that this is a big task. It's not all the women who need to be convinced that women can be ordained, but men. We had a long conversation yesterday about women and the contribution they make and we heard from a number of women who hold senior positions and there was a common understanding around the table that this is an issue and then at the end of the session the person prayed for all men!

The leaders believe that as partners we need to concentrate on the Sunday schools which of course will take a generation to impact.

We are encouraged as partners to make a focused commitment to be involved in specific areas. The partners also made the point that an indigenous church has to take responsibility for its own life. Interestingly it was also noted that we have sometimes not helped our partner churches by giving money, this may have undermined the mission, so now we need to think how we can help with the different programmes and priorities.

The CNI have given us some priorities to consider and they are:

 

·         Training of Bishops.

·         Identification of leaders early for ministerial training and ministerial formation.

·         Reading the bible in their context.

·         Funding for ministerial training.

·         Would it be possible to link pastors to learn from each other in different parts of the world church.

·         Women candidates for ministry need to be encouraged.

·         Exposure training for leaders about mission around the world and in context to encourage

·         The CNI can offer support to partners in working with and living alongside people of other faiths.

 

Some interesting insights from the partners’ churches which include the fact that half of the congregations in the Presbyterian church in the USA can't support a full time pastor. I also discovered this is the reality of many churches across the world and I have heard this repeated often in the last two days. It did cause me to reflect that some of our Methodist churches need to wake up to the reality of the situation we are dealing with in our own communities.

The British Methodist church and our partnerships are very much valued around the world as is the work of our 53 mission partners. We give approximately half a million pounds to India in grants per year and also depending on need, support specific disasters.

CWM mission statement is based on the model of empire and the Church of Canada resist this model, they are also of the opinion that they will lose 1/3 of their congregations in the next few years and question if in fact they will survive. They are therefore partnering with CNI to enable them to learn about "Asian" people and therefore evangelise them.

The uniting church of Australia gave a presentation about the centre of Christianity moving to Asia and Africa and suggested that diversity of culture is the main issue for churches today and until such time as we develop a Trinitarian theology of interdependency (i.e., partnerships of mutuality) the church will not survive. All the partners share the view that cross cultural skills are required to enable us all to engage in mission and that partnership is a two-way process.

Lots and lots to think about!

Tomorrow a visit to ISPCK and then tomorrow evening the rest of the team will return no doubt full of stories.

As I return to England I have been asked if I have enjoyed my visit to India. No, I have not "enjoyed" it. I have been challenged, surprised, frustrated, angry, tearful, exhilarated in equal measure but it's not been enjoyable. I have been challenged by the poverty while appreciating how rich we really are in the West.   I have been surprised by the sheer magnitude of the problems of inequality, injustice, poverty and the lack of religious freedom. I have been frustrated by those who hear but don't really listen and angry at those who seemingly think they have little to learn from our world church partners.  I have been tearful at hundreds of worshipping adults, young people and children who worshipped with such sincerity and where the Holy Spirit was evidently present and exhilarated by the whole experience as I know so too were the worshippers. Am I changed as a result of the visit? Without a doubt.

The visit to ISPCK today was very interesting, informative and yes, enjoyable at times.  I met with Revd Dr Ashish Amos, the general secretary who took me to one of the poorest areas of the city where I met Priscilla an amazing lady who literally lives on the job where she supports women out of prostitution and runs a school with two others five mornings a week. Two girls sleep on each of the three landings and two men across the door way so she won’t get raped or worse killed. She is described by the women as ‘sister’ this was truly a remarkable woman. It cost ISPCK 60k to convert the building and run the project but it's worth every penny.

Talking about ISPCK on the way back and hearing how the publishing arm funds the projects I remembered as a student minister in training getting a grant a work they still continue with all ministers training for ordination in India. Ella who works on women’s empowerment programmes showed me round and gave me much to think about the cultural aspects of being a woman in India today.

One of the highlights of the day was again in a very poor area visiting the ‘Disha’ project. We had to walk a good way through the narrow streets avoiding the dirty water and the refuse and the excrement, being aware of the stares and the nervousness of people as a white woman entering the area. Many of the people had never seen a white face and certainly not walking down their alleyway within inches of their makeshift home.

‘Disha’ is a project with just one teacher working with young girls to keep them out of prostitution by teaching them beauty techniques. Now women readers imagine going into a beauty salon at home, gentle music, soft towels comfy chairs.........I could go on but you get my drift. I entered what can only be described as a cave where I had to jump down 2 feet or so to get in having taken off my shoes at the entrance. I did wonder if they would still be there on the way out.  On entering this dingy room no more than 6-8 sat cross legged on the floor sat 20 girls. I was shown their work books, and some very elaborate eye make-up. I then presented a few of the girls with certificates and how proud they were and how little I felt with my painted nails and makeup that probably cost more than it did for one girl to do the course.  They insisted on us having a snack and drinks with lots of photographs being taken. I reluctantly left as the teacher and two of the girls escorted us back to the car, complete with my gifts, my garland and red spot on my forehead.  We have received so many gifts while we have been here that we are having to have them sent home It would have been so ungracious to leave them and we have fitted as much as we can in our cases.

After the visit to the ‘Disha’ project we then got stuck in a terrible traffic jam, which in a disconcerting way made me feel right at home as the jam was caused because the tram system is being extended in Delhi.  Anyone who has been to Nottingham recently or lives around Chilwell and the university knows what that feels like!

We finally arrived at a school run by Rev Peng Thawng who comes from Myanmar.  He trained for ordination in his home city but then found himself due to the conflict as a refugee in Delhi.

He moved into a community with lots of others from the same county and discovered how as refugees they were very poor and could not afford to send their children to school so he started a school 5 afternoons a week, and he now has four teachers - all Christians, and 60 children divided into four classes from 4 to 16. No uniforms, no desks, very few books and no fees for the parents to pay. He is now supported by ISPCK. He also started a church but he said ‘it's a bit disappointing I only get 500 over the weekend!"  I found him and the staff truly inspirational. The children were stunning too, singing in almost perfect English. ‘Jesus is the answer’ with actions. When I tried to teach them ‘he's got the whole world in his hands’ they thought it very funny!

My guide for the afternoon was equally inspirational, a young Myanmar girl called Nunu who had to flee from her country on her own, being separated from her family, arrived in Delhi with nothing other than her clothes she had on and a few pounds. Now 5 years later at 23, she has a small house, in the area of the school, she is the receptionist at ISPCK and also looks after her sister of 18, who three years ago came to join her. She told me "it's hard working 9-6 every day, having to wash and clean and cook and look after my sister but we have a great God who looks after us".  She wants to travel, but she misses her parents who she has not seen since she left but she is too afraid to go home. Next time I am in India I must go to her home, she wants to cook for me, just one more demonstration of the gifts received during this visit, when those who have so little give so much.

God bless

 

Loraine


 

CHAIR’S MUSINGS

 

Since returning from sabbatical, I have read two volumes of agenda for conference been to conference, celebrated a significant birthday and today will conduct the last of my nine welcome services having lead synod yesterday! Hectic time but worshipful and God filled!   The final book has also been read, albeit after my sabbatical! ‘Church for every context-An introduction to Theology and practice’ by Michael Moynagh.

Let’s look back to conference which was interesting

Conference even though from the agenda seemed very inward looking was a good conference, good decisions made and lots of work affirmed. We are going to look at the “Larger than circuit” report in our synods. We are going to look at what the churches response should be to the same sex marriage bill. We looked carefully at a detailed paper about ministers who suffer from ill health, which also contains info about what a healthy circuit looks like. A very significant event was the final meeting of the Methodist missionary society and as usual we heard from our brothers and sisters from the world church and as always I very much appreciated the contributions they make which always wider my horizons.[This week could I encourage you to pray for the world Methodist council l which meets in London]  I along with others brought a notice of motion about the numbers of candidates we receive for training when we are unsure how many stations we are going to have at the end of training. It's a very complex issue contributed to by reshaping for mission, more lay employees, the rise in the number of deacons candidating, less presbyters candidating, who are often older. Finance and circuits not being able to afford ministry, are just some of the issues. We have asked Methodist council to set up a working party to report with an interim report in 2014, with a final report in 2015. We also agreed to celebrate the ordination of women which reaches 40 years next year at conference which will be held in Birmingham.

I celebrated my 60th birthday this summer, an event I was not looking forward too but in the end enjoyed it immensely spending it with my family in a very nice hotel near the Cotswolds. The only disappointment was my son Steve and Ali my daughter in Law could not attend as Ali was in hospital in Wolverhampton where she remains, very fed up. She has had a very severe infection which has necessitated surgery and we continue to hold her in our prayers and in the busyness support them and visit as much as possible.  

The welcome services this year have been a joy, travelling the district visiting Littleover, Bank Rd Matlock, St Mary's Stretton, Waingroves in Amber Valley, Aspley in Nottingham North, down to Ashby in the National Forest up to Zion in South Normanton and tonight very local, just around the corner in Keyworth. It’s been such a privilege to share in the welcome services and to get to talk to people from all parts of the district and of course to welcome new ministers among us.  The food had been magnificent and I think I may have put another stone on this week!  Thank you to the circuits who have been so generous in welcoming, it’s been humbling.

And so to the last sabbatical book ‘Church in every context - An introduction to Theology and Practice’ Michael Moynagh. [With Philip Harrold] What an epic read, but well worth the time and effort.  Michael Moynah is an Anglican who is responsible for bringing together theology and practice in new forms of church and is connected to the Fresh Expressions team. He has written many books and I have read some of his others, but this one I think is his best.  He takes us from the past with St Paul and the churches he formed and then looks at the theological rational of church delving into culture and context and the legitimacy of church and tradition today.  He then spends a good part of the book writing about how churches come into being, what forms a missional community and how important it is for churches to encourage discipleship and lifelong learning alongside the imperative to make new disciples. He then spends the latter part of the book in how churches grow in maturity with special emphasis on discipleship, worship, community and sustainability.

The final chapter is titled ‘Towards a Mixed Economy Church’ I find it interesting that he uses the word ‘towards’ I think we are not towards anything, this is the position we are in now, but then perhaps some places are not there yet. He pays tribute in the book to those who have not just wrote about fresh expressions of church but also those who have been instrumental in taking risks and part of any new initiative to make disciples.   It much more of what I call a text book as opposed to one where you would start and the beginning and work your way through to the end even though that is what I did with it.  When I formed a new church one of the many issues we grappled with was how we express the faith of the church through things like Holy Communion and baptism.  Michael Moynagh deals with these issues and I now realise where we went wrong!  But then if I formed another church, having read this book I would do something differently of course, because we learn by our experience and when we read books like this one. What was really helpful about the book was at the end of each chapter there is questions for discussion so it could be used in house group or fellowship but you would need to be very disciplined to get through it. If you are thinking of setting up any form of fresh expression of church then I think this book is essential reading.

Please do look at the Nottingham and Derby Facebook page and also ask to friend me on my own page and you will get the district pray focus. On the day of synod yesterday 274 people read the prayer and therefore prayed for us!

Till next time 

God bless

 

Loraine