More evangelism stories
The Hope Journey
From: Wirral Methodist Circuit
A unique education initiative, originating in the North West, is growing from strength to strength and spreading out across the UK.
Founded in 2008 at Hope Farm Methodist Church, Ellesmere Port,The Hope Journeyproject grew out of a single request from a local primary school's for some support in the delivery of certain areas of the religious education syllabus. Since then, the project has supported more than 40 different churches across the UK, with funding and support from the Wirral Methodist Circuit and a Connexional Grant.
Nicola Langton-Miller, a school's worker and author of the programme, said: "I createdThe Hope Journeyas a way for local churches to better support the delivery of religious education at schools.
"Through two-hour sessions, written for specific year groups, children can better participate and engage with the syllabus in a fun, interactive and engaging way."
Combining training, resources, materials and visits, the project puts churches and schools in partnership to better facilitate faith-based learning.
If you would like to learn more about The Hope Journey project, and how to replicate it in your district/circuit/church, please visit the website or get in touch with them using the email address below.
Source: Buzz 170
Praise in the Park
From: Sutton Park, West Yorkshire
Around 250 adults and a choir of 50 school children came together in Sutton Park this summer for a Songs of Praise type event - Praise in the Park.
Local people, including churched and non-churched alike, had the opportunity to vote on their favourite hymns and worship songs and the congregation sang a total of eight songs during their 45 minutes of worshipping together.
The choir sang songs such as Creator God and How Great Thou Art with accompanying actions and enthusiasm in abundance.
Susanne Platt, on behalf of the ecumenical churches that put together the event, said: "It was a fantastic day. Bringing people together, sharing our faith and having a jolly good sing song - what more could you want?"
Source: Buzz 169
Great Get Together
From: Ilkeston Methodist Church, Derbyshire
Ann Richards, of Ilkeston Methodist Church, Derbyshire, led a united church effort to provide a 'Great Get Together' event celebrating community life.
Working together with local churches, the council, the park ranger and other community organisations, the group provided an entirely free, family event for the whole town.
Family Worker Caroline Middleton said of the day: "One of the activities was a hook-a-duck game which was actually a thanksgiving prayer space. Throughout the day, we helped over 100 children express their thankfulness to God for different things (with a different topic stuck to the bottom of each duck).
"Erewash Borough Council and the park ranger were so pleased with the way the event was run, they have asked us to return to provide children's activities for their next park event!
"We are so thankful to God for the opportunity to build such positive relationships with our community."
Source: Buzz 168
24 hour Church
From: Across the Connexion
A video highlighting the good works of the Methodist Church across the Connexion was launched at the Conference last week, during Sunday's Conference Worship.
The video depicts the Church in action at different times of the day and night, showing that the work of God through the Methodist people never stops. Included were images from Street Pastors, pilgrimages, chaplains, community events, workshops, weddings and more.
And keep an eye out for your own images too, as most of them came from your fantastic contributions made to the Buzz!
Source: Buzz 167
From: Copnor Methodist Church, Portsmouth
Methodist journalist Catherine Burt, travelled to America to help under-resourced churches learn how to communicate more effectively.
Catherine, 37, from Copnor Methodist Church in Portsmouth, spent a week in May this year with a team of church communication professionals, creatives and techies, to help under-resourced churches better engage and communicate the Christian message with their local communities.
Before starting her adventure, Catherine said: "Creative Missions is a really innovative idea - using people's media and creative skills to help churches communicate better by producing logos, websites, social media, videos and photography. It's a real privilege to have been selected for this year's trip and to help bring the gospel alive for people."
The 30-strong team gave up a week of their time to help almost two-dozen churches in Bozeman, Montana. Catherine, who works as Media Co-ordinator for The Girls' Brigade England & Wales, previously joined the group on trips to Alaska in 2013, Baltimore in 2014, and Vermont in 2016.
She added: "What's also exciting is that Creative Missions are now considering a trip to the UK to work with churches here and I'm really excited to see how this develops."
Source: Buzz 166
From: Solihull Methodist Church, Birmingham
Methodists in Solihull reached a special milestone this week, as their weekly e-news bulletin made its 700th edition.
Running for an impressive 14 years (and counting), The Prattle, features all the news and events you would expect from a church newsletter, helpfully delivered to members and friends past and present straight to their inbox.
Online newsletters can be a great way to keep your congregation in the loop, save on paper, and you don't have to be a tech-wiz to do them.
If you'd like help or advice in how-to make your newsletter online, please get in touch.
Source: Buzz 165
Forty Acts of Kindness
From: Wesley Methodist Church, Leigh-on-Sea
Three Wesley Methodist Church in Leigh-on-Sea joined with Highlands and Belfairs Methodist churches to agree to do 'acts of kindness' in Lent. In addition to tailored services based on the theme, the initiative has proved to be an ideal opportunity for new outreach.Three Methodist churches in Leigh-on-Sea, near Southend, joined forces to take part in a special series of events this season.
Participants have been involved in a number of acts so far, including visits to sick friends, doubling food bank donations and making phone calls to lonely people.
Eileen Simmons, who helped to organise the initiative, said: "It was inspiring to see people outside of the churches get involved too, including local businesses and pupils from Leigh North Street Primary School.
"Each year group decided their own act of kindness, with some giving out homemade cakes to shoppers (which they loved!) while others went to their local Salvation Army OAP lunch, which was greatly appreciated."
Source: Buzz 164
Happy New Year!
From: Medway Chinese Methodist Church, Gillingham
A church in Morley held a special 'Bake Off' to celebrate Her Majesty the Queen's 90th birthday.
Some of the best bakers in Morley came to Tingley Methodist Church to compete on the day, in front of a lively and knowledgeable audience.
Charlotte Page triumphed with her orange and chocolate swirl cake which was highly commended by Judge Councillor Judith Elliot.
As well as live baking, there were a variety of pre-baked categories, displays and cake making classes available, which were all well received.
All buns and cakes made were then sold off with over £200 being raised, half of which was donated to Emmaus, the homelessness charity.
(Source: Buzz 163)
The Great Tingley Bake Off
From: Tingley Methodist Church, Morley
A church in Morley held a special 'Bake Off' to celebrate Her Majesty the Queen's 90th birthday.
Some of the best bakers in Morley came to Tingley Methodist Church to compete on the day, in front of a lively and knowledgeable audience.
Charlotte Page triumphed with her orange and chocolate swirl cake which was highly commended by Judge Councillor Judith Elliot.
As well as live baking, there were a variety of pre-baked categories, displays and cake making classes available, which were all well received.
All buns and cakes made were then sold off with over £200 being raised, half of which was donated to Emmaus, the homelessness charity.
(Source: Buzz Bumped Edition 162)
Thank God For Football
From: Barry Town United Football Club
A minister in Wales took his love of 'the game' to new heights by starting a football themed outreach event during the UEFA Euro 2016 Championship.
The Revd Peter Taylor, who studied 'Christian mission through professional football' while training at the Queen's Foundation, said: "For many years I have felt led to lead a football-themed outreach event, and thought that this summer, during Euro 2016, would be a great time to start!"
The local club, Barry Town United FC, generously offered free use of their social club room for the event, which took place the day after the Wales vs England match.
Peter continued: "I felt it was right to do this form of outreach, out in the community (not in the church) and where better, than the local football club?"
The day involved a variety of football themed events including a quiz, and clips from the film 'Hallowed be thy game', a documentary which explored football as a sense of religion and worship, and 'Thank God for Football', which explores the Christian origins of several top UK football teams.
(Source: Buzz Bumped Edition 162)
An Alternative Flower Festival
From: Ashbourne Methodist Church, Derbyshire
A church in Derbyshire hosted a flower festival with a difference.
As part of the 'Ashbourne Arts Festival', Ashbourne Methodist Church blossomed with thousands of knitted, crocheted and sewn flowers.
Church member and organiser of the display, Clare Sales, said: "It has been great to see people getting involved despite the months and months of preparation.
"The display was a real talking point and was a hit with many of the townsfolk and visitors alike."
(Source: Buzz Bumped Edition 162)
From: St John's Methodist Church, Bloxwich
A church in Walsall held a Flower Festival as part of their ongoing celebrations for its 50th Anniversary.
Local businesses, community groups and neighbouring churches all helped to mark the special year for St John's Methodist Church, Bloxwich, by donating floral arrangements for the celebrations.
A special open day was organised to showcase the displays and a variety of activities and stalls were run alongside, including craft workshops, pottery painting and storytelling sessions.
Other special events were also organised throughout the anniversary year, including a competition to design a logo for posters, letterheads, banners and social media. The winning design was created by teenager Alex Robotham who attends the Church and has recently been baptised.
(Source: Buzz Bumped Edition 162)
Celebrating All Things Local
From: Central Methodist Church, Preston
Central Methodist Church in Preston helped out their community during 'Encounter', a weekend long festival celebrating all things local in Lancashire.
Local artist Steve Messam worked with Guild City Events to install artwork on the theme of the Red Rose, including an exhibition of hundreds of red balloons.
The balloon exhibition was so large that there were questions as to where the balloons could be stored in advance. But Central Methodist Church stepped in to help out by storing the balloons before they were installed in a nearby alleyway.
(Source: Buzz Bumped Edition 162)
John Wesley Returns
From: Misterton, Nottinghamshire
A village in Nottinghamshire held a scarecrow competition that featured a very special guest.
John Wesley was on show at a Gala Day following members from the Misterton Methodist Chruch recreating his likeness in the form of a scarecrow.
Steward and organist at Misterton, Steve Bilton, said: "Unfortunately our 'John' did not win a prize as we were too late to enter, but he raised a number of eyebrows and quite a few cars stopped to take photos."
(Source: Buzz Bumped Edition 162)
The £10,000 Lunch
From: Kempshott Methodist Church, Basingstoke
A pioneering lunch initiative in Basingstoke has raised more than £10,000 for charity.
Since April 2011, Charmian and Ian Harrison, members of Kempshott Methodist Church in Basingstoke, have offered lunch to anyone who wants it on the first Sunday of each month.
For a nominal £5 a head, guests get a hearty lunch including a choice of 3 or 4 main courses and 3 or 4 desserts.
Ian said: "The aim was to give people who might otherwise be on their own the opportunity to have a good lunch in pleasant company. Each month, we have between 16 and 24 people come, both from the local churches and from none.
"Two of our regular guests who had lost their spouses even found love through the lunch!"
The project donates the money raised to a different charity each month and, as of December 2016, has had raised over £10,000.
(Source: Buzz Bumped Edition 162)
From: Orpington Methodist Church, London
More than 2,800 angels have been knitted to spread good news and Christmas cheer in Orpington.
Members, friends and family of Orpington Methodist Church have joined hundreds of churches across the UK (including St Andrew's, Basingstoke and West Harton, South Shields) to take part in the Christmas Angel project, which involves knitting hundreds of little angels and leaving them around the local village, town or city for others to enjoy.
Following along a similarly cuddly theme, Norton Methodist Church was one of many congregations to hide soft-toy sheep across its town, appealing for help in getting their lost flock back to church in time for their Christmas services.
And staying with the woolly theme, a few churches have been getting in the festive mood by knitting their own Christmas trees, like this one by Tilehurst Methodist Church, Reading.
A Blank Canvas
From: Leigh Wesley Methodist, Southend-on-Sea
A church in the heart of Leigh-on-Sea's Broadway took the opportunity of having temporary hoarding round their building during works to create a beautiful piece of art.
In the summer of 2016, the redevelopment of Leigh Wesley's Sanctuary got underway. Builders moved in and the temporary hoarding went up. Seeing the potential blank canvas before her, the Revd Julia Monaghan invited local artist Mary Lister to paint, masking the plain wood.
Hearing that one of the stained glass windows was being re-sited, Mary found inspiration for her painting. She said: "I came up with the theme of stained glass windows and beautiful archways, but I also wanted to represent our diverse community in some way.
"I wanted to capture all the things that make this part of Essex such a wholesome and well-rounded place to live with a plethora of beautiful views and activities to take part in (with a few Pokémon painted in too for good measure)."
The project went on to become a great opportunity for the church to engage with the local community, with Mary splitting the painting into a large 'paint-by-numbers' so that anyone could join in the fun, seeing people from the junior school and local community take part.
(Source: Buzz 160)
From: On Sabbatical
One minister from Ilkley has been using his sabbatical in a unique and interesting way: by building a shepherd's hut named Hilda!
The Revd Rob Hilton, minister of Christchurch, Ilkley, undertook this task as part of his sabbatical exploration on what it means to be a 'shepherd'.
"As a minister ordained 22 years ago," Rob said, "I found myself reflecting on what shepherding means. Jesus was described as The Good Shepherd and ministers are shepherds of a flock."
From there, Rob used his previous experience building sheds to undertake the challenge of building his own portable shepherd's hut for prayer.
"Researching how to build my own shepherd's hut was an insight into the tradition. Apart from the chassis and roof, everything is salvaged material - a valuable lesson in the teaching that God's love can make the best out of anything or anyone. I have appreciated having so many materials given to me. I feel cocooned in the goodwill, encouragement and support of those who gave me bits and pieces."
As well as building the hut, Rob has spent time working alongside shepherds and farmers to better understand their motivations and ways of life.
(Source: Buzz 159)
From: Bangor and Holyhead Circuit, North Wales
St Paul's Church Penmaenmawr, Wales, held a new mission initiative titled 'Wonderfully Made' last month, an inter-generational arts festival featuring community crafting, singing and musical instrument lessons.
Under the leadership of the youth and community coordinator Rebecca Miller, the event saw many people take part from the local community, holiday makers and Methodists from across the Circuit.
Drama, food, fellowship, celebrations and more were also enjoyed as new friends were made, stories shared and novel skills learned together.
The Revd Kate McClelland said: "This venture was about letting the community know the church is waking up, inviting them in, getting them to meet us on common ground and come and have some fun with us. And guess what? It worked!
"It was important for us that everyone could get involved, so there was no charge for the day (only donations) and we didn't 'push' religion at all. We wanted to break down stereotypes.
"I am so proud of both Rebecca for her vision and leadership in steering this new and exciting venture through and of the folk of St Paul's for embracing the challenge.
"It was such a success! So many new friends and experiences shared. I can't wait for next year's event!
(Source: Buzz 158)
School's Out for Summer!
From: Across the Connexion
Every year, during school summer holidays, churches across the country open their doors to their local communities for holiday clubs. Here are some stories from two of them:
Champion's Challenge Holiday Club
Ashby Wesley Methodist Church, Scunthorpe
Led by a team of nearly 40 adults and young helpers, the Ashby Wesley's holiday club saw around 50 children each day discover more about Jesus through craft, games, drama, teaching and song.
The week culminated in a celebration service on the Sunday, which saw holiday club families join the church family in a service of praise and worship with the children sharing what they had learnt during the week.
Summer Special Holiday Club
Cullercoats Methodist Church, North Shields
This year, Cullercoats Methodist Church's Summer Special holiday club followed the Scripture Union theme of the Guardians of ANCORA and had over 70 children attend.
"It's not rocket science, or even anything unusual, but holiday clubs are Kingdom building," said Sue Carr, holiday club leader. "Some of our young helpers have been coming along every year since they were four years old!
"Not only is holiday club great fun for the kids, but it really helps to build relationships with the parents too. It helps us to show that Christians have abundant life and aren't just stiff and stuffy."
(Source: Buzz 157)
Church calls for unity against racism
From: Across the Connexion
Following the Conference's unanimous decision to call for respect and tolerance in our national life, Methodists across Britain were encouraged to write to their MPs speaking out against the rise in racist attacks following the EU referendum vote.
Along with many other ministers and lay preachers, the Revd Andy Longe of All Saints Church in Durham addressed his congregation to unite against racism on Sunday 10 July. Speaking to his local paper, the Northen Echo, Andy said: "I think it's an important message for people in churches and the community to hear that we're all in this together".
Since the resolution was passed at the Conference, hundreds of people have written to their MP using the online tool and several church groups have organised meetings to discuss the issues.
Below is a photo of members of the Conference standing together in unity against racism, following the motion being carried. Many members were wearing safety pins as part of a campaign which encourages wearing a plain safety pin as indication that you are a safe person and would not subject anyone to intolerance or abuse.
(Source: Buzz 156)
From: Caldicot Castle, Monmouthshire
A hot and sunny afternoon saw the two neighbouring circuits unite for a Big Birthday Bash - celebrating Pentecost and the Queen's 90th birthday.
In the idyllic setting of Caldicot Castle, a variety of events and activities were held, including areas for Messy Church activities, a history display, archery, a Christian conjuror/juggler and a prayer area.
Along with fun activities for all ages, ladies of the circuits provided delicious cakes, served at tea time and the afternoon ended with a service.
A large number of people from the circuits attended, which was further swelled by visitors who were welcomed to the free event.
Vestry Steward Hilda Turnbull added: "The Big Birthday Bash was a great success and a really fun day out for all who came. Special thanks must go to the local authority who waived the fee for hiring the castle for this brilliant community event."
(Source: Buzz 155)
From: Bakewell Methodist Church, Sheffield
Bakewell Methodist Church has been building bridges with the local community this Easter... with Lego!
The 'Easter Brick Event - A Lego celebration of Easter' included the chance to get creative as well as showcased an exhibition of Lego models depicting the Lent and Easter story, built by young people in the community.
Organiser Karen Perry explained: "I have been using Lego for the last couple of years with young people in churches and schools to teach Bible stories. We now have a series of over 12 models built by the children which depict the Lent and Easter story, ranging from Jesus' temptation in the wilderness to his resurrection. Children and young people seem to be able to build anything out of Lego and it's a great way for them to express a Bible story or teaching in their own way. No two models are ever the same!"
The 'Easter Brick Event' also included a number of Lego-themed craft activities, games, films and a Lego prayer tree.
"It was a great opportunity to get alongside and engage with children and their families from the community," added the Revd Adrian Perry, Superintendent Minister of the Peak Circuit. "We had lots of positive comments from the visitors and there was even the suggestion that we hold a regular 'Brick' church!"
(Source: Buzz 154)
Holy Week Art Exhibition
From: Watlington Methodist Church, Oxfordshire
Watlington Methodist Church held its first ever art exhibition during Holy Week this year, entitled 'My Lord, my Love is crucified'.
Local artists were asked to engage with the Biblical events of Holy Week and Easter, with participants encompassing the last days of Jesus' earthly ministry, death and resurrection.
A dozen artists took part, producing 15 original pieces in a variety of different mediums.
The Revd Adam Stevenson, minister of Watlington Methodist Church, said: "We were delighted to host this art exhibition in the town. We saw lots of people come and experience the art works. Exploring something of what it means to be human, and ultimately what it means to be loved, through the stories of Jesus in those last days of his life on earth."
"It has been a real privilege to work with a number of local artists as they have reflected on the stories from the Gospels and to see how they have approached them. Many have asked themselves questions about what we, as human beings, are capable of in their work for this exhibition."
(Source: Buzz 153 Easter)
From Courthouses to Public Houses
Just like John Wesley, Francis Asbury preached in a myriad places: courthouses, public houses, tobacco houses, fields, public squares wherever Asbury would go, a crowd would assemble to hear him.
While living in America, Asbury rode an average of 6,000 miles each year, preaching virtually every day and conducting meetings and conferences.
Under his direction, the Methodist Church in America grew from 1,200 to 214,000 members and had around 700 ordained preachers by the time of his death.
(Source: Buzz 152 - Asbury Special)
From: Spital Street Methodist Church, Dartford
Last December, members of Spital Street Methodist Church tried something new to reach out to the community of Dartford. On a chilly Saturday morning, members of the church asked passing Christmas shoppers "Do you pray?" Those who said 'yes' were invited to tie a prayer ribbon on to the church railings.
"In that one morning alone we had more than 100 ribbons tied onto the railings," Deacon Jane Paine said. "Along with prayer requests and ribbons we had many good conversations. Some were intellectual, while others were very moving as people shared their stories of what they were praying for."
"But that wasn't even the best part..."
"We'd left the ribbons on the railing with a notice explaining what they meant and some extras in a plastic bag. Only a few days later, we were delighted to see that all of the spare ribbons had been used! We extended the feature a further two weeks and, just as quickly as spare ribbons were being put out, new prayers were being put up."
Despite being right in the centre of town and just round the corner from the biggest night club in the town, the only 'graffiti' was a prayer for the homeless and refugees on the notice.
During the Carol Service later in the month, members of the congregation brought in the ribbons symbolising bringing the prayers of the town into the church. The ribbons were then heaped in front of the altar and offered to God.
Altogether, there were exactly 200 ribbons - plus the one prayer written on the notice.
The church is now planning to have a permanent prayer box outside and is looking at new and unique ways to build contact with the praying people of Dartford.
(Source: Buzz 151)
Who Am I? God Knows!
From: Methodist Summer Fellowship, Swanwick
Methodists from across the country and further afield came together in August for the biennial Methodist Summer Fellowship (MSF) at the Hayes Conference Centre in Swanwick, Derbyshire.
Methodists and others of all ages (2-85 years) took part in workshops, worship, sport and fellowship throughout the week, along with a full children's programme.
The week was enjoyed by all, and the date for the next gathering is set for July 29-4 August 2017, during which the Methodist Summer Fellowship will be celebrating its centenary.
Ann Pardoe, one of the longest serving members of the community said that the event is: "a place where the whole panoply of God's people can find a home and welcome, to learn at the feet of scholars, relax and play in beautiful grounds."
David Larbi, at 17 years old, who attended MSF for the first time last year, added: "I genuinely wasn't expecting to meet so many incredible people and have caught the bug - I shall definitely be back again in two years time."
(Source: Bumper Buzz Speciial 150)
From: Gracious Street Methodist Church, Yorkshire
Knaresborough, in North Yorkshire, is noted for its collection of a dozen or so tromp l'oeils window paintings around the town, depicting historical characters associated with Knaresborough.
As part of their 2015 bicentenary celebrations, Gracious Street Methodist Church added their own contribution to the collection. Local artist and church member Shirley Vine painted John Wesley preaching by the town's market cross.
Wesley is known to have visited Knaresborough at least four times. So it seemed appropriate to mark that fact on a church built just twenty-four years after his death.
The painting was dedicated by the Revd Peter Whittaker, former Chair of the West Yorkshire District and now a local supernumerary minister, after leading the morning service. He had invited the whole congregation to gather in the open air - just as Wesley's hearers had done.
The picture is now part of the official town trail of tromp l'oeils and stands as a permanent reminder of the church's history. It's a good talking point for church members to share the faith that Wesley preached and the church still proclaims with locals and visitors alike.
The Revd Gail Hunt added: "Gracious Street has always been a very community-centred church and we are delighted to link the church and town in this way. The painting serves as a great reminder of our roots, but also acts as a challenge to embrace our mission today in the same passion and zeal for the gospel that Wesley had."
(Source: Bumper Buzz Speciial 150)
From: Brixton and Streatham Circuit
Last summer the Brixton and Streatham Circuit hosted three Coffee Outreach Events.
On three consecutive Saturdays, outside three different churches, stalls with banners and posters reading "The Methodist Church Welcomes You" invited passers-by to stop for a free cup of coffee or tea. Those too busy to stop were offered some free literature to read with details about local churches in the area.
"The initiative has been a very positive experience as members from all of our churches helped out and grew more confident about speaking to people about their faith. We discovered that most people were only too happy to stop and chat or to be given something to take away and read. One woman even came back to tell us how moving she found her little booklet."
One of the coffee points was located next to a bus stop, where the initiative proved especially worthwhile. As well as talking with strangers, many familiar faces were welcomed including a few people who had once been worshippers in the circuit, but for various reasons were no longer attending.
As a direct result of the three Coffee Outreach Events, two of the three churches involved have made new members.
The Brixton and Streatham Circuit is hoping to do further events in the spring
(Source: Bumper Buzz Speciial 150)
Wedding Dress Festival
From: Ford Methodist Church, Winchester and Eastleigh Circuit
Over 50 wedding dresses, spanning from 1920 to 2015, were on display in Chandler's Ford Methodist Church for a weekend last year.
The Wedding Dress Festival attracted visitors from the church and the local community to see dresses and associated wedding memorabilia belonging to members of the congregation and their families.
Some of the dresses and photographs depicted three generations of marriages in the same family. Another piece of interest included one of the oldest dresses, from the early 1930s, which had been dyed so that it could be worn on other occasions. Wedding flowers and music added the finishing touches to the event.
As a mission opportunity, the church offered a warm welcome to all who came, celebrating the significance of Christian marriage, its love and the commitment it represents. Many members of the congregation also enjoyed the opportunity to look at photos of each other in younger years!
As part of the celebrations, the Revd Peter Cornick led couples in a re-affirmation of their vows whilst his wife, Helen Cornick, led a 'Mr & Mrs' quiz with one couple celebrating 63 years of marriage. There was great hilarity as no one guessed the answer given by their spouse!
As part of the Sunday service, Helen prayed for those who remembered marriages but were now parted by death, those who had experienced divorce, and those who were single. In his sermon, Peter preached on the overflowing grace of God to be seen in Jesus' miracle at the wedding at Cana. He said: "Christian marriage is a gift of God, with the grace of God, which helps us grow with God."
(Source: Bumper Buzz Speciial 150)
Who is my neigh-bour?
From: Racecourse Chaplaincy, York Racecourse
The Racecourse Chaplaincy at York Racecourse is perhaps the first and only (so far) of its kind, which this year covered all 17 days of the York racing. It's truly unique in its provision to both sport and event chaplaincy, thanks to its great combination of lay and ordained members from different churches.
When Royal Ascot Week was held on York's Knavesmire course in 2010, it was the Street Angels who provided people with space, support and a friendly ear. But in August of 2015 it was a team of six chaplains who were on duty on each of the four days of the Ebor festival with crowds of 22,000 spectators and over 2,000 racecourse employees. On occasions the crowds even grew to as large as 35,000 people.
The team of chaplains was drawn from the City of York and the Churches Together in Southern Ryedale. For the latter, the Chaplaincy Everywhere course was an integral part of their preparation, with each chaplain involved in serving the racing industry throughout the year: on the gallops, in the stables and at numerous other events in Malton and North Yorks.
The Revd Peter Clark, one of the racecourse chaplains, added: "Chaplaincy is about making sure people have access to pastoral and spiritual support if they need it. It's about making sure the church connects with people where they're at. It's rewarding, intriguing, challenging and enriching. This ministry gets me to the parts of the community the church doesn't touch, and hopefully I can represent the love of God."
If you have had positive experiences with the Chaplaincy Everywhere materials or are thinking of using them to start your own community chaplaincy team - please get in touch.
(Source: Bumper Buzz Speciial 150)
Oh we do like a beer beside the seaside!
From: St Arnold's Pub Church, West Yorkshire
"Life's a beach", or at least it was in Bradford this summer, when Bradford Brewery and St Arnold's Pub Church hosted its first ever Summer Beach Party.
A weekend of shared summer-related festivities was topped off by a special Beer & Hymns service on the beach, accompanied by Cornerstone Methodist Church's time-honoured organist Angie Brown.
Pub Church Minister, the Revd Graeme Dutton, said of the event: "For August, we felt a celebration of God's good creation and the glorious British summertime would be appropriate. We had classic hymns, delicious craft ale and all the best things from the beautiful Yorkshire coast re-created right here in the city centre.
"The invitation was to people of all faiths or no faith at all - to soak up some great summer holiday atmosphere and have a really good sing-along in our very own Bradford-on-the-Sands. People from across the community came and beer, singing and laughter were shared by all."
(Source: Bumper Buzz Speciial 150)
From: Newcastle Upon Tyne District
After months of preparation, the Newcastle Upon Tyne District held a week of shared outreach called 'Together Mission'.
Over 100 people volunteered to serve on 11 unique 'mission teams' across the district each reaching their local communities in different ways.
Some teams found themselves facilitating Messy Family Fun holiday clubs, prayer on the streets, community meals, youth drop-ins and the like. While some of the more unusual activities included Songs of Praise on a boat on the Keilder reservoir and a puppet show in a castle.
One team planted themselves in an unused shop in their town centre and created a space for people to think about their story and God's story. Each day they saw around 150 people take time out from their shopping to visit this community space and many took the opportunity to share their stories and prayers with team members.
The President of Conference, the Revd Steve Wild, visited the district during this week and spent time visiting the different teams offering encouragement. His gifts as an evangelist were well appreciated as he was able to join in the outreach.
This kind of mission activity was new to many of the team members and, although some set out very nervously, most surprised themselves by the way they engaged with the work. Numerous individuals reported how their faith in God had grown as a result of stepping out in evangelism and practical mission activities.
District Evangelism Enabler, Elaine Lindridge, who facilitated the group who organised Together, said: "I'm beyond delighted. It's been a privilege to see people joining in with the mission of God and to witness how God is very much at work in our communities. Many, many people responded positively to an offer of prayer, an invitation or just a listening ear. God's love in action through his people... wonderful!"
(Source: Buzz 149)
Standing in Solidarity
From: London District Synod
London Methodists en masse joined thousands of others on the streets of London in a march of solidarity in support of welcoming refugees as part of their Autumn Synod this year.
The District Chairs and Synod Secretary rearranged Synod business to allow for all Synod delegates and attendees to join the march, with a special reflection service being held for all those unable to join in. Having printed off hundreds of posters with the District logo and the slogan '#refugeeswelcome', Methodists flooded the streets singing hymns of God's love.
After the march Synod reconvened at Methodist Central Hall, Westminster, where they celebrated Holy Communion with reflections based around the refugee crisis.
The Revd Nigel Cowgill, one of the London District Chairs, added "Joining the march was a chance for the Methodist people of London to show, in a very practical way, that God's love is for all people. The business of Synod is very important, but standing up for those in need of a place of safety and security is a greater priority."
(Source: Buzz 148)
Wet Wet Wet
From: Mint Methodist Church, Plymouth and Exeter
On Sunday 6 September, the Exeter Academy for the Deaf held a fund-raising event in Fore Street, Exeter, with a difference.
A giant water slide was installed for which a ballot had been organised weeks before, allowing people to register their interest in swooping down the hill. Fortunately the weather was wonderful and the Academy was delighted with the public response.
With several streets closed off in the area, Mint Methodist Church took the decision to cancel their usual morning service, with some of the congregation joining Sidwell Street Methodist Church and some going to the streets to facilitate water-themed activities in the car park to keep children amused, provide refreshments and offer a quiet place to rest inside the building. The Taizé group sang twice during the morning and the welcome and activities went on until the afternoon. With the water-slide queue starting just below the church entrance, it was a prime spot for outreach opportunities.
Children were encouraged to chalk pictures of boats, fish and other watery subjects on the ground, whilst inside the worship area there were prayer stations for quiet reflection as well as a net suspended in the reception area on which 'prayer fish' could be hung.
Mint Methodist Church has long-standing links with the Exeter Academy for the Deaf and was very happy to help with their vital fund-raising.
Angela White, Mission & Outreach committee member, added "It was a great opportunity to be there for the crowds. We offered space for people wanting to talk, play or simply get away from the bustle of the street. A true example of Outreach at work."
(Source: Buzz 147)
Baslow's Big Lunch
From: Baslow Methodist Chapel, Sheffield
Over 100 people from the local community joined Baslow Methodist Chapel at 'The Big Lunch' for food, music and fun.
For the past few years the small Methodist chapel at Baslow in the Peak Circuit has hosted a community street party.
On a (usually) sunny Sunday in June the road outside the chapel is closed, and the 20 or so members of the chapel are joined by over 100 others from the local community. In good traditional style, trestle tables are laden with food, a band serenades, games are played, faces are painted and much fun is had by all. With the sun shining, this year saw the largest turn out so far - filling the road.
The Revd Dr Stephen Skuce added, "As the chapel reflects on this excellent mission opportunity, we are aware that there is still a gap to be bridged. Even in great community events like this, all too often the missional opportunities are not grasped as evangelistic moments to share our faith more clearly with others.
The Big Lunch at Baslow is a great success, but still a work in progress."
(Source: Buzz 146)
One new member challenge
From: Cock Road Methodist Church, Bristol
In his inaugural address at the Conference in Southport, the Revd Steve Wild challenged each Methodist church in Britain to aim to bring one person to faith in the coming year, saying: "Let's take God seriously. I want to help us in the task of evangelism, to put mission on the agenda and give our churches an aim to win a person for Christ."
One of the smallest Methodist societies in Britain responded to this challenge in under 24 hours.
Cock Road Methodist Church in Kingswood, Bristol, voted in and welcomed new member Mrs Brenda Luke on Sunday 28 June as part of a short church council meeting. Whilst Brenda had been a regular attendee at a Methodist church in her childhood, it was the warmth and friendship of the loving congregation at Cock Road that brought her back to faith.
Revd Josette Crane, minister to Cock Road said "We send this news as an encouragement to others to take up this exciting challenge from Steve Wild".
(Source: Buzz 145)
Pentecost and Wesley Day
From: Gwennap Pit, Cornwall District
Just under 400 people braved mist and light rain to attend the annual Pentecost service at Gwennap Pit, the favourite outdoor preaching place of John Wesley, on the afternoon of Sunday 24 May. Events kicked off with community hymn singing compèred by Methodist Recorder columnist Tony Jasper, and with Darrell Curnow on keyboard.
This year, Pentecost Sunday coincided with Wesley Day and to mark this Tony Jasper wrote and performed a drama on the conversion of John Wesley and his brother Charles. This took place during the service, punctuated with the singing of hymns.
Appropriately for Wesley Day, the preacher was the President Designate of the Methodist Conference, the Revd Steve Wild. Also taking part were the Bishop of Truro, the Right Revd Tim Thornton; David Smith, secretary of Churches Together in Cornwall; and Jenny Lockwood, secretary of the Gwennap Pit Management Committee. The Salvation Army Band (Cornwall Corps) accompanied most of the hymns (Darrell Curnow played for two).
The Revd Danny Reed, a superintendent minister in the Cornwall District, presented the Revd Steve Wild and his wife Laura with gifts ahead of his presidential year on behalf of the sixteen circuits in the Cornwall District. A group of Methodist ministers and laypeople prayed for Steve and 'laid hands' on him.
(Source: Buzz 144)
Christian presence at the Wickham Music Festival
From: Meon Valley Methodist Circuit, Southampton District
The Wickham Music Festival is held annually from 6 - 9 August. It's an outdoor live music event over four days with many acts and tents on a field just outside the village of Wickham in the Meon Valley, Hampshire.
The headline act last year was James Blunt. The one day he performed over 7,000 people came to the Festival.
So, last year, deciding on an outreach project, and with a lot of prayer, Meon Valley Circuit Methodists were allowed a Christian presence for the duration of the Festival. We erected our 'Elemental Tent' within the Festival site, manned by several enthusiastic Christians from our Circuit.
We will be doing so this year (August 2015) as we have again been invited to the Festival by the organiser Peter Chegwin.
We call our Christian presence within the Festival our 'Elemental Tent'. Festival folk are gently encouraged in their journey of faith. We aim to show a Christian presence of relaxation, welcome, crafts and some prayer in and around the Tent. We even held a Harvest Festival service within the Music Festival itself last year (well, the weather was sunny too - most of the time!). We discussed faith openly and we prayed with people who asked for prayers. We had a spiritual artist last year too, and hope he will be there again this year.
Our superintendent minister the Revd David Moss leads the project, assisted by his wife Ali, with the rest of us trying to keep up. We are about to start our training for this.
We are in touch with BBC Radio Solent and we are hoping they will be interviewing us at the Festival.
(Source: Buzz 143)
Weaving Women's Wisdom
From: Touchstone, West Yorkshire Methodist District
Weaving Women's Wisdom is an inter faith project, empowering women to engage in creative activity and to form and deepen friendships.
Launched by Touchstone in Bradford in Autumn 2014, we have worked alongside 20 groups in Britain and Pakistan. Each group explored starter questions: "Who are the wise women that have influenced my life?", "What is the difference between wisdom and knowledge?" and "Who are the wise women in my holy text and faith tradition?" In the light of this conversation, each group is provided with a pack of materials and invited to make a rug.
The rugs use traditional techniques from the UK and Pakistan, including 'rag rugging' and 'locker hooking'. Groups have included inter faith forums, schools, Girls Brigade and even a book group. The results are stunning, giving great opportunities to women who are often sidelined in more formal inter faith dialogue. Stephen Williams, Minister for Communities, visited Touchstone to see the project and said, 'It was fascinating to hear how the project has developed into more than just inspiring inter faith friendships - into forums where women find a safe space to speak about their issues of concern'.
On Tuesday 21 April at Bradford City Hall, we launched the project's next stage 'The Carpet of Wisdom'. The Revd Dr Barbara Glasson, Touchstone Team Leader introduced the exhibition. Individual rugs were put together inside the Touchstone yurt for a vibrant and colourful 'carpet'. The Carpet of Wisdom will tour the UK during 2015 and be exhibited in mosques, churches, cathedrals, schools and possibly even the Houses of Parliament.
Weaving Women's Wisdom is a tangible demonstration that women of faith can work creatively together for peace. And produce something beautiful!
(Source: Buzz 142)
We don't need a Grand Plan!
From: Bishops Cleeve Church, Gloucestershire Circuit
In his final sermon to the Gloucestershire Methodist Circuit Assembly, the Chair of Bristol Methodist District (which includes Gloucestershire), the Revd Ward Jones urged the congregation to look at how well known supermarkets are changing their expansion plans.
"On Sundays the supermarkets are heaving with shoppers. The analysts tell us shopping is therapeutic. The supermarkets encourage loyalty... but for economic reasons some plans for additional floor space or new stores are now being either cancelled or put on hold".
Speaking to a packed congregation at Bishops Cleeve Methodist Church, the Revd Ward Jones, says that the Church needs to change too. "We struggle to keep the show on the road. We just about maintain our buildings ... but my word to the Church is to ride 'light' to the structures and allow a more strategic use of resources, allowing the real work to happen. To share the Good News; the other side of the Easter story. We don't need a Grand Plan ... just do the little things well to the glory of God."
(Source: Buzz 141)
Beacon of the community
From: Erdington Methodist Church - Sutton Park Circuit
The Erdington Methodist Church in the Sutton Park Circuit has celebrated the completion of the major part of its vision project. The church's two-fold aim was to transform the drab, 1970's building, where no one could find the front door, into one that stood out, proclaiming the Christian message and welcoming everyone in the community.
Hilary Price, Trustee of Erdington Methodist Church in North Birmingham, said: "There is more to be done but we have a new, visible entrance, disabled ramp and path with lighting up to the entrance. The red brick wall is rendered in cream and a new cross and large signage tell everyone who we are. Inside, an extended foyer will provide a café area to be able to offer refreshment and friendship in a social setting, to all who want to visit during the week."
The church held a Community Day to celebrate the refurbishment with free teas, coffee and biscuits. The Lord Mayor of Birmingham, Shafique Shah, opened the event and a group of Scouts helped him cut the ribbon.
"The number of people who came overwhelmed us," said Hilary Price. "The cost of the bacon baps meant that they were very popular! We were also pleased to welcome the Erdington MP, Jack Dromey, and local councillors who had helped us with an award from Community First."
(Source: Buzz 140)
Methodist Evangelist's 300 years honoured in Gloucester
From: Northgate Methodist Church, Gloucester Circuit
On the third Sunday of Advent - and just two days before George Whitefield's 300th birthday (16 December 1714) - worshippers at Gloucester's Northgate Methodist Church celebrated the life of the city-born preacher and evangelist.
Gloucestershire Methodist local preacher and church member, Alan Morgan, led the congregation in this tercentenary celebration of George Whitefield's birth. "We gave thanks for George Whitefield's life and ministry," said Alan. "In a relatively short life span, George Whitefield travelled the length and breadth of the United Kingdom and made several perilous voyages across the Atlantic, preaching along the east coast colonies of America. His only aim was to proclaim the love of Christ to any who would listen. Whitefield's conversion, or "rebirth" as he called it, was three years before the conversion experiences of John and Charles Wesley."
George was the seventh child of Elizabeth and Thomas Whitefield - owners of the Bell Hotel in Gloucester city centre where George was born. George attended Crypt School Gloucester and enjoyed drama and public speaking. His teacher encouraged him to develop his voice skills. Because of family challenges, George left school to help his parents around the Bell Hotel. By this time, George had developed an interest in the church and was hoping to go to Oxford to train for the ministry. At the age of 19, he managed to get himself to Oxford by becoming a servant to a wealthy student. It was there that he met members of the "Holy Club" led by John Wesley.
With choral pieces and singing led by a 13-strong choir, prayers were said by Northgate Methodist minister, the Revd Tim Harrison and senior church steward, Anne Dunning. BBC Radio Gloucestershire also interviewed Alan Morgan for their Sunday Breakfast Show and news bulletins.
Another event in the "Whitefield 300 years Celebration" is planned for 17 May this year. An open air service will take place in the grounds of Gloucester Cathedral at 6.30pm. This event will focus on George Whitefield's "field preaching", which inspired John and Charles Wesley to take the Church's message outdoors as an effective means of preaching the Gospel to more people. The guest preacher will be the Revd Lord Leslie Griffiths.
(Source: Buzz 139)
How cakes, cappuccino and chocolate charm customers at Copplestone's cafe
From: Copplestone Methodist Church, Ringsash Circuit, Devon
If you drive along the A377 in mid-Devon towards Barnstaple, three miles after leaving Crediton you will see a cross in the village of Copplestone. It's a striking pillar 12 feet high with 1,000-year-old carvings. Some say it marks the place where Putta, Bishop of Devon, was murdered in 905.
These days things are quieter in Copplestone and bishops are treated with proper respect. A few metres from the cross, opposite the Cross Hotel, you will find Copplestone Methodist Church - the only place of worship in the village. If you come to Copplestone on any Thursday morning between 9am and midday, you will find the main church transformed into a cheerful and attractive café serving a wide range of drinks: cappuccino, latte, mocha, hot chocolate, or just a plain filter coffee or a cup of breakfast tea, unless of course you prefer a speciality or fruit tea.
Roger Steer, local preacher and cake baker at the café, said: "The café is famous for its range of fabulous home baked cakes, though toasted teacakes also have a loyal following.Over the past three years, the café has become an established part of the life of Copplestone village. Children can play in a soft play area while their mums and dads, and people of all ages, return week after week to chat. No charge is made for the drinks or cakes but donations are invited and the profits are given to a different local charity every month."
Some people, whose first introduction to the church was through the café, have begun to attend the Sunday worship services. On the first Tuesday of each month, lunches are served and these, too, are a popular part of life in the village, particularly for the older community.
(Source: Buzz 138)
John Wesley Mural
From: New Romney Methodist Church, Kent
A chemist shop has recently been refurbished in the little town of New Romney in Kent and, to mark the event, a local artist painted a mural on the wall adjacent to the Methodist church. The mural depicts John Wesley who opened London's first free clinic and dispensary in 1745.
Terry Preston, a circuit steward and local preacher in the South Kent Circuit, said: "In the time of John Wesley, there were very few skilled doctors around, and the poorcould not afford to consult them. Wesley employed an apothecary and a surgeon so that the poor could obtain treatment and medicines.
"In 1747, Wesley produced a little book which proved more popular than anything else he wrote. It was called 'Primitive Physick' or 'An Essay on the National Method of Curing Most Diseases'. This was a collection of popular remedies for all kinds of illness. Many of his cures seem very strange to us today: bruises were to be treated with treacle spread on brown paper, and boldness could be cured by rubbing the scalp with a mixture of honey and onions. But he also recommended fresh air, exercise and simple food."
The mural has given Methodists in New Romney the opportunity to explain who John Wesley was to people living in the local area.
'Get out of church Sunday'
From: Great Lumley Methodist Church in County Durham
Some Methodist churches in the Newcastle-upon-Tyne District stood completely empty during normal Sunday service times in October. Why? Because the entire congregation had left the building to go out and serve their communities.
This was part of a new mission initiative instigated by their District Evangelism Enabler, Elaine Lindridge, called 'Get out of church Sunday'.
Great Lumley Methodist Church was just one of the churches in the area to take part. The minister, the Revd Ian Kent, started the day with prayer. Afterwards, five teams filed out of the building.
The first team was largely made up of children alongside a couple of Sunday School teachers. Carrying a large box of games, they headed off to the park to play games with any other children who happened to be around. The next team decided to go to the village green to do some gardening and pick up litter. Then came the team that wanted to "prayer walk" around the village and ask for God's blessing on the community. The fourth team set off for the coffee shop in the community centre to chat with people, while the last team made its way down to the local sports field with flasks to offer hot drinks to parents watching their children playing football. A couple of people stayed behind at the church to get a barbecue lunch ready as everyone was going to gather back there and invite others to join them for some free food.
The Revd Elaine Lindridge said: "Seeing folk out and about and engaging with their communities was amazing. Although they went in order to bless others, they returned having been blessed themselves. Prayer walks, litter-picking, community singing, bible studies in cafés, kids activities ...the list goes on. All on one day in October. A Sunday when Christians decided to 'get out of church'."
(Source: Buzz 136)
Sit next to me
From: Sandylands Methodist Church, Cumbria
Over the course of a day, District Youth Officer, Jonny Gios, sat on a sofa outside Sandylands Methodist Church in Cumbria and invited passers-by to sit with him and have a chat.
Some people stopped for a brief 'hello' while others sat down and engaged in long conversations. Parking, the Scottish referendum, school, children, Jesus, cakes, tea, the local park, lighting and other community matters were some of the subjects that came up, as well as fundraising events and more personal pastoral concerns.
At the end of the day, Jonny said: "I've seen and spoken to over 80 people today. One lass bought me two cream scones from Spar and another bought me a bag of crisps! A bit like the raven with Elijah, God must have known I was hungry.
"Lots of people were moved as to why I was doing this, which provoked discussions. It was great to see so many drivers pass by and look twice at me sitting there. One woman sat for well over an hour talking. At one point there was not enough room for me to sit or stand on the sofa as a group gathered around, and so I had to venture inside the church. Wow!"
The Revd Dr Jonathan Pye, superintendent minister of the Kendal Circuit, said: "I think this was a great initiative. I am glad that it went so well. It certainly demonstrates, in a creative - and obviously effective - way, the church's commitment to the community."
(Source: Buzz 135)
Kitchen opens for business
From: Trinity Church, Willingdon
Trinity Church has been working hard to extend its outreach support and become more community-minded. Over the past three years, church members have developed an ongoing programme of community-based events, many of which incorporate social activities, including the sharing of food and drink.
The biggest initiative has been the lunch club "Trinity Diners" launched in February 2011. The club caters for local residents who benefit from a hot, home-cooked, mid-day meal in a warm and friendly environment.
Jennie Macfadyen, church secretary and Trinity Diners team leader, said: "Many of our diners tell us, not only that they are grateful to have a meal cooked for them, but also that they benefit from being able to make new friends and chat with each other. Some of our diners now support other community events held on the premises."
It soon became apparent that the kitchen facilities needed updating to meet health and safety regulations. Two-and-a-half years of planning and fundraising came to a successful conclusion when the new kitchen officially opened. Community organisations that supported the project financially include Willingdon and Jevington parish council, Waitrose (Eastbourne), Sussex Police and Council for Voluntary Service (3VA) as well as church members and representatives from the Central Sussex United Area. The church also gratefully acknowledged the financial backing of the AllChurches Trust and a grant from SITA.
(Source: Buzz 134)
Tour de France
From: Bilton Area Methodist Church, Harrogate
The first stage of the Tour de France - the Grand Départ - finished in Harrogate this summer and Bilton Area Methodist Church was part of the race.
Everyone at the church in Skipton Road, Harrogate, felt it would not be right to have Sunday morning worship on that day because they wanted to be celebrating the race with the rest of the community.
The church distributed over 1,000 free bottles of water to spectators. A tag was tied to each bottle advertising a community day at the church the week after.
Matthew Lunn, children and families worker, said: "Doing something simple like this helped to be a Christian witness to the local community. Bilton Area Methodist demonstrated generosity to the community. More than 150 people came to our community day as a result of the advertising on our water bottles. This was a free event!"
The community had a great day with a barbecue, refreshments, football and games. Local schools got involved by organising games such as 'tin can alley' and lucky dip. Special guests included Andrew Jones MP and the Mayor of Harrogate. The event also helped to raise the profile of Bilton Area Methodist Church.
(Source: Buzz 133)
Death Café in Hereford Community
From: Birmingham District
The Revd David Vonberg, a Methodist minister working at St Michael's Hospice in Hereford, has headed a small team from the Hospice in order to establish a 'Death Café' in Hereford.
His aim was to arrange an informal setting for people to come together and talk about the issue of death and dying. People met at a local coffee shop and talked over cake and coffee at the launch of the first death café, which will meet once a month from now on.
David said: "If sex was the taboo conversation in the nineteenth century, death is the taboo subject in the twenty first century. The conversation during the launch event ranged over every aspect of death and dying and bereavement. People felt liberated to speak about things which are normally out of bounds."
The death café drew people of different ages; from late twenties to early eighties.
"It used to be said in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries that Methodists know how to die well," David continued. "Yet, nowadays, how often do we speak about death and dying at meetings or in sermons? To welcome people to a secular environment and to listen to their hopes and dreams is a remarkable privilege."
(Source: Buzz 132)
The Romans came to Staines
From: Staines Methodist Church
Crowds flocked to the first production of the Easter story in the town's Memorial Gardens outside Staines Methodist Church in April.
Organised by Churches Together in Staines and Laleham, the performance featured amateur actors aged from three upwards.
Organiser John Miller, the pastor of Staines Baptist Fellowship, was delighted with the production that took seven months to plan. "On a scale of one to 10, I would say it was about 10,000," he said. "We were thrilled with it, absolutely thrilled. The production went really well and the crowds were amazing. We had an audience who, at times, appeared to be excited and who also appeared to be spellbound. We were very pleased with how it went."
Planning started in earnest in October with the first rehearsals in January. Around 30 churches contributed financially to the event while Wintershall, which puts on the annual performance in Guildford, lent a number of costumes.
The performance also attracted positive comments from some of the estimated 1,000 onlookers who saw the two performances. Audience member Simon Shutt tweeted that the play was "brilliant". The Revd John Izzard, superintendent minister of Staines Methodist Church and Chair of theStaines and Laleham Churches Together Group, said: "I was totally bowled over with the number of folk who came to see this first presentation of the passion play. Many were touched and visibly moved by the powerful portrayal of the Easter story presented in such a real and vibrant way."
Plans are already under way for the next Passion Play in 2015.
(Source: Buzz 131)
From: Bilton Area Methodist Church, Harrogate
Bilton Area Methodist Church in Harrogate hosted a knitted Bible exhibition that brought hundreds of people into the church. The exhibition featured stories from the Bible which were knitted into a fascinating display that the children could interact with. The 30 colourful scenes from Old and New Testament each portrayed 10 inch knitted characters. These included scenes from the creation story through to the life of Jesus.
Five schools from the surrounding area visited the exhibition, which meant that more than 700 children saw the knitted Bible exhibition. Some parents said that their children wouldn't stop talking about it at home.
Matthew Lunn, children and families worker, said: "The knitted Bible helped the children to know more about the stories on a level they understand. As a church we have very strong links with our local schools through doing assemblies and helping with Religious Education days. Some of the children attend our summer club, Messy Church and Sunday Club because of the strong relationships we have built up with the local schools. Our hope is that children will know more about the Bible stories in a fun and exciting way. By doing this we hope children and families will know what Bilton Area Methodist can offer to the local community."
The knitted Bible exhibition also offered visitors refreshments, including cakes and soup. Bilton Area Methodist raised £400 towards its church development fund.
(Source: Buzz 130)
Vice-President visits Bishop's Cleeve
From: Bishop's Cleeve Methodist Church, Gloucestershire
Sunshine, handshakes and a cup of tea greeted Dr Daleep Mukarji, Vice-President of the Conference, as he arrived to put a 'Spring' in the step of the local Methodist church in the north Gloucestershire village of Bishop's Cleeve.
Dr Mukarji went to Bishop's Cleeve Methodist Church for a weekend focussing on mission within the local community, the Gloucestershire Circuit (involving 48 churches across most of the county), the Bristol District, the Connexion, and the world.
Projects on display included the Cheltenham based Cornerstone Centre at Whaddon, Cheltenham Street Pastors, Christian Aid, eco-congregations, Fairtrade, Action for Children, Methodist Homes, Open the Book (Bible readings in school), Bereavement Support, and circuit mission project "Explorers" designed to help people on the fringe of faith and belief.
Welcomed by Gloucestershire Circuit Superintendent minister, the Revd James Tebbutt, the Vice-President saw and heard about some of the work that James Tebbutt said "goes on quietly, week in, week out, in our churches".
A faith supper preceded the address from Dr Daleep Mukarji on the theme "One Mission, God's Mission".
The Revd Peter Taylor said: "After explaining the background to the "Future Mission Together" report to Conference 2012 and reminding us of the history of the Methodist Missionary Society, Dr Mukarji emphasised that every Methodist is called to share in mission, and that mission embraces and unites social action and evangelical proclamation as good news to all people. Some of us have yet to move on from the concept of mission as something "we" do for "them" by sending out missionaries and funds.
"Opportunities for mission are there, but we have to be ready to listen and learn, to address issues of growing poverty, unemployment, hunger and homelessness, and engage with local communities; linking the local with the national and the international. The context of mission is in the call of Jesus in sending us out."
The visit continued with an early Sunday morning visit to BBC Radio Gloucestershire where Methodist Minister the Revd Richard Atkins interviewed Dr Mukarji on his Sunday Breakfast programme. After a hurried return to Bishop's Cleeve, the District Chair, the Revd Ward Jones, led worship and the Vice-President preached to a full church.
(Source: Buzz 129)
From: Wooton United Church, Gloucestershire District
Inspired by Mary Berry, a member of Wooton United Church (Methodist/URC) hit upon the idea of making a gingerbread church for people with a sweet tooth. Worship group helper, Jane Gray-Wallis, planned, shaped and baked the idea into being.
Jane used chocolate tiles to form the roof and decorated a "garden of rest" with sweets. Royal icing was whisked into mortar and boiled sweets were crushed, pulverized and packed into the window frames. In true "Grand Design" fashion, the church windows were last to arrive - and only just on time. A torch, poked through the front door of the church, brought a coloured glow to the "stained glass" windows.
Sue Marsland, worship leader, said: "January played its part by being chilly enough to cool the church sides. There were a few anxious moments: roof trusses, beams, rafters and purlins were hastily crafted from skewers and cocktail sticks to support the sagging roof, which was overladen with chocolate buttons. We piped oodles of icing into every crack and voila! Our church was complete and standing alone. A fantastic achievement!"
Locals came to admire Wooton United Church's gingerbread creation. After a countdown, John Emmett plunged in the bread knife. "There was never so much gingerbread eaten in so short a time," Sue continued. "It was a wonderful fun-filled afternoon. Thank you especially to Jane for masterminding the whole thing and to all who came to support the families of our all-age worship group - Roots'n'Shoots. Goodness knows what time the children got to sleep after all that sugar!"
(Source: Buzz 128)
Putting church "on the map"
From: The Methodist Church Hall, Gawsworth, Cheshire
The small village church at Gawsworth Cheshire - The Methodist Community Hall - has just completed six years of offering its premises for village coffee mornings. More than 26 charities regularly book the hall for two mornings a year and, for the past five years, more than £7,500 has been raised annually for those charities. According to members of the congregation, the weekly coffee mornings have put the church "on the map," bringing people together from across the community.
The Revd Sheila Bishop said: "The coffee mornings encourage generous giving and have brought customers into the church for worship. The local parish council gives us a grant so that we can offer the premises free of charge. People comment on the friendliness and the welcome they find here. On the third Thursday of the month, a lunch club of around 50 people sit down to a two-course hot meal and a hot drink. This, too, has furthered our witness and increased our congregation on Sundays."
(Source: Buzz 127)
St Mark's went baaahmy at Christmas
From: St Mark's Church, Epsom Downs, Surrey
Sheep took over St Mark's Church in Tattenham Corner this Christmas. It all started when families' worker, Liz Townsend, suggested a touring nativity for Advent. As she and the minister, the Revd Des Williamson, tossed ideas around, they came up with a "baaaahmy" idea: knitting a nativity set. Thanks to church member Gill Keens, an avidknitter, the plan was put swiftly into action.
Mr Williamson, minister of St Mark's Church of England and Methodist United Church, said: "The team knitted over 30 sheep in just four weeks! Keeping track of the sheep became an issue and Liz renamed the old church thermometer gauge a "baaahrometer". The launch was accompanied by three life-size lookalike sheep made by Liz from fleeces donated by a friend. The knitivity flock rose to 127!"
The knitivity flock travelled around the community from 1 December. Hosts were encouraged to record their experience in the diary that travelled around with the sheep. Liz launched the venture with an account of the Knitivity story.
(Source: Buzz 126)
International Christmas Lunch
From: Dorset Gardens Methodist Church, Brighton, East Sussex
A team of 24 helpers from Dorset Gardens Methodist Church, Brighton, made sure that international students at Sussex University got a taste of a traditional Christmas lunch last year. Students who don't go home for the Christmas vacation were served up lunch on campus.
Around 130 students sat down to turkey and all the trimmings plus mince pies, Christmas puddings, carols and the Queen's speech. The lunch was organised by the Dorset Gardens minister the Revd Robin Selmes and student development worker Sue Harrington.
"It was a big project for us at a very busy time of the year but it was worth it to see so many people of different faiths and none sitting down together," Sue said.
Each student received a Christmas Tea goody bag filled with cakes and savouries to feast on over Christmas Day. The lunch will happen again this year on Christmas Eve.
(Source: Buzz 125)
From: Trinity Methodist Church, Winsford
As Trinity Methodist Church in Winsford has a reputation for fabulous homemade cakes, its congregation decided to put their skills to use by supporting the Macmillan Biggest Coffee Morning Appeal.
Members were surprised by how many people were keen to support their endeavours, which raised more than £500 for Macmillan Cancer Support.
Local preacher Claire Roberts said: "The ladies of our church worked so hard to support a well-deserved cancer charity and what a brilliant morning we had! Goodness knows where all the cake and raffle prizes appeared from but everyone was so keen to support this worthwhile cause. The fellowship and atmosphere was marvellous and the event attracted lots of people from the local community. The best thing of all: over £500 raised for Macmillan Cancer Support!"
Irene Davey, one of the organisers of the morning, said: "After a little panic at the start - wondering if we would have enough cakes and, most of all, if anyone would come to support us - we realised that we needn't have worried because due to the wonderful fellowship that is in abundance at Trinity, we were overwhelmed by the gifts of beautiful cakes and the attendance of so many people eager to show their support for such a worthy cause."
Vera Mounfield, treasurer of Trinity Ladies Evening Meeting, echoed Claire and Irene's satisfaction with the day. "Macmillan nurses have been a great help and comfort to all cancer sufferers," she said. "It was a morning of great love and fellowship at Trinity Methodist Church in Winsford. When we pray and work together wonderful things can be achieved."
(Source: Buzz 124)
Painting a profile of the Church
From: Moston Methodist Church in Manchester
The young people at Moston Methodist Church in Manchester decided that they wanted to deliver a fun day for the local community in order to raise the profile of their church.
The fun day included face painting, designing cupcakes, cafe corner, a bouncy castle, pool, arts and crafts and a barbecue - all of which were free. A total of £130 was raised through a raffle (prizes kindly donated by Barnardo's) and two of the games on offer: hook-a-duck and penalty shoot out. The children said that they would like to use the money to pay towards an activity for themselves.
Annie Monaghan, project coordinator, said: "The attendance saw families from the local area and a disability group with a mix of people from the local community.The project would like to thank John Partington from the North Manchester Camera Club for attending and taking some wonderful photographs, the playgroup for the loan of mats and all those who attended. A good time was had by all."
(Source: Buzz 123)
Reaching out in the Lake District
From: Sandylands Methodist Church, Kendal
When you think of Kendal, you might think of the gateway to the Lake District: beautiful mountains and the taste of mint cake. But people from the area report a harsher reality: large pockets of deprivation and challenging economic times. Sandylands Methodist Church, located on the Sandylands estate, is trying to help people through this unsettling period.
In December 2011, the church reopened its £465,000 remodelled and refurbished building to accommodate outreach activities. Work then began on forming new groups and programmes for the people in the community. In March this year, volunteers cleared 16 gardens and filled eight skips on the Sandylands estate with help from Cliff College mission team.
Jonny Gios, community worker, said: "We are planning for Hope 2014. Not only do we want to bless our community again; we want to invite people to a number of outreach events for them to hear why we are doing what we are doing. There are some amazing stories about how people's lives have been changed by Jesus."
(Source: Buzz 122)
'Nic the Vic' scarecrow reaches out to villagers
From: Seaton Methodist Church, Solway Circuit
This summer the Seaton Methodist Church in the Solway Circuit (West Cumbria) decided to take part in the village scarecrow event. Not only was 'Nic the Vic' entered into the event; the church also opened its doors to people passing on the scarecrow trail. Church members served scones, coffee, and, during the lunchtime period, soup and a roll.
James Fisher, senior circuit steward in the Solway Circuit, said: "The Seaton Scarecrow Trail has been held each year for the past four years, but this is the first time that chapel members have entered a scarecrow of their own. Scarecrows are made by village residents and are displayed at the front of their homes around the village. Apart from the villagers, the event also attracts people from the surrounding area who come to look at the various exhibits."
This year's entry was modelled on Superintendent Minister Nicola Reynolds. 'Nic the Vic' was created by Joan Armstrong with the help of other members of the congregation. Donations from refreshments raised £400 for church funds.
James added: "The villagers of Seaton have again seen the chapel in action, and not just as a place for a handful of people to meet on Sunday afternoon. The donations will go towards the upkeep of the small village chapel, which celebrated its centenary two years ago when a stone was installed on the village green to commemorate the visit of John Wesley."
(Source: Buzz 121)
Mums set up a group for kids
From: Balsall Common Methodist Church in Solihull
Balsall Common Methodist Church in Solihull has held a number of events for the children of the village. A small Junior Church and a Young People's Fellowship meet every Sunday. But, in order to encourage newcomers, a group of mums decided to set up a group to reach out to other children in the village. With the help of members of the congregation, the mums organised themed afternoons during the school holidays.
Mary Cotterrell from Balsall Common Methodist Church said: "A core of people attend every time but new people come along too, often invited by those who have been before or those who learn about it from the school gate. We have had very good feedback so the events are much appreciated."
Each afternoon ends with an act of worship shared with everyone: children, helpers, family or carers. The church and the hall are cleared and activities are spread throughout the building. The numbers attending rise each time as children and mums spread the word at the primary school. Two collages created during one of the activities now hang on the wall of the young people's meeting room: a space which they have refurbished themselves.
(Source: Buzz 120)
Methodism across the world
From: Mickleover Methodist Church, Derby
A "Living Library" event at Mickleover Methodist Church in Derby helped to raise £346.65 for the work of the Methodist World Mission.
Representatives from the Derby Circuit exhibited mementoes from the different countries they had visited. A variety of photographs and memorabilia included snapshots of Europe, Africa, Asia and the Americas. The Revd Paul Ashby told the audience about his call to serve in Zimbabwe. Tim Paisley spoke on the work of Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF), describing the difficulty of flying in and out of hazardous areas, often on life-saving missions. And Brian Hollingworth gave a presentation on the Methodist Church in Hong Kong.
Phil Johnson, Derby Circuit Administrator, said: "Not only were we able to see and hear about many parts of the world and the church's involvement in it; we were also able to taste food from different parts of the globe. This was a delicious way of sharing fellowship."
(Source: Buzz 119)
The Storytelling Cafe
From: Big Barn Lane Methodist Church, Mansfield Circuit
The Big Barn Lane Methodist Church is located opposite the end of an alleyway that leads to a local primary school. At the end of the day, parents and carers often park around the church to pick up their children from school. The church decided to open up a weekly Storytelling Café to reach out to these commuters after hearing of a similar project in the Isle of Man.
Alan Darlington, church member, said: "Each evening is fairly simple. At the end of school, the children and their carers call in. Drinks and biscuits are provided free of charge for everyone, served by a member of the church. While the adults enjoy a chat, the children have a free play time, either using a few games and toys or just having a run around. After about 15 minutes, the children are gathered together and listen to a Bible story. We are close to the parents so that they can hear what we are doing, but they are not necessarily expected to join in, although they are welcome to."
Each week a prop relating to the story is produced from a large treasure chest. After the story, the children play until their parents are ready to take them home.
"This time has increased as the parents got more comfortable," Alan continued. "Within about an hour, the activity is over. We have had up to eight children with their carers. Numbers fluctuate because of after school clubs, but the event is well received and enjoyed by all who attend."
(Source: Buzz 118)
Old Rectory's Shop Is Given Face-Lift
From: Epworth Old Rectory
A small but significant step in a move to revamp Epworth's Old Rectory - the childhood home of John and Charles Wesley - has been completed.
The project involved the refurbishment of the Old Rectory's museum shop, which had contained an old counter, a donated shop unit, some shelving and other odd pieces of furniture.
In January this year, shop fittings were offered to the Old Rectory by the Museum of Methodism in London and a sustainability grant was made by the Association of Independent Museums (AIM), a charitable institution based at Ludlow in Shropshire. The grant enabled the shop fittings from London to be transported to Epworth, along with a new cash register and displays to improve the image of the gift shop.
The Revd Claire Potter, curator at the Old Rectory, said: "This complete redesign of the shop has been of great benefit. Without the commitment and many hours of work by a team of volunteers it wouldn't have been possible. Likewise, without the AIM sustainability grant we wouldn't have been able to make it happen. We're very grateful. Plans are currently in hand to completely restore the Old Rectory, a Grade 1 listed building, to the way it would have looked when occupied by the Wesleys in the early 18th century."
The project, which cost more than £2,400, was completed in time for the start of the Old Rectory's 2013 season this month.
(Source: Buzz 117)
From: Portishead Methodist Church, Bristol
Portishead Methodist Church in Bristol has set itself the task of learning how to deepen discipleship alongside the Inspire network during 2013. The Inspire network is a national movement that aims to help develop Christian discipleship in local churches. It is rooted in the historic approaches to discipleship in the Methodist Church, drawing its inspiration from the teaching and practice of John Wesley himself.
The Revd Sharon Lovelock of Portishead Methodist Church said: "We are developing a range of services and activities over the coming year to develop the four main emphases of Inspire within the church. We feel that working with Inspire is a significant way to work at our own vision to be a church that is worshipping, welcoming and a growing church for all, committed to sharing Christ's love by word and action. Inspire's focus on Christian discipleship will also help us as we work with other Methodist churches to be a 'discipleship movement shaped for mission'."
The members of the leadership team have explored what it means to be in a band with two or three other people and are now seeking to form small bands in order to grow together in fellowship and discipleship. They will be safe spaces of sharing and seeking God together with guidance and support from the Inspire network. All are welcome to form and be in bands and there will be opportunities in 2013 for everyone to discover more about what that means.
(Source: Buzz 116)
Reaching out to young people
From: Hargreaves St Methodist Church, Burnley, Lancashire
A Methodist project is reaching out to young people and vulnerable groups in Burnley, Lancashire. The Basement was once was a disused car park but in 2002 the Revd Keith Richardson and project manager, Adrian Heys, transformed the space into a new centre for young people. Now the Basement is a non-alcoholic dry bar with an internet café that runs sessions with the Youth Offending Team, schools, unemployed people and other vulnerable groups.
The project has been backed by the voluntary sector, connexions and local charities. Their support has made it possible to fund four workers who develop outreach programmes - both Christian and secular - geared towards the local community.
Aidrian Heys, Basement manager, said: "Through our recording studio, Joinery workshop, healthy-eating workshop, alternative curriculum to school (Step-Out project), we are reaching out to young people from the town. We work with approximately 150 young people each year. On Tuesday, Thursday and Friday nights the Basement runs open evenings. All our youth work has educational elements enabling young people to achieve their goals in a dynamic way."
(Source: Buzz 115)
Village celebrates 225 years of Methodism
From: Salem Methodist Church, Bristol and South Gloucestershire Circuit
2012 was a very special year for Salem Methodist Church in Watley's End in the Bristol and South Gloucestershire circuit. The church celebrated 225 years since John Wesley came to Winterbourne to preach on "the foundation of a new preaching house".
Margaret Johnston, senior steward, said: "Over the past 225 years our small chapel in the heart of Watley's End has maintained a witness to the gospel. There have been periods when the membership declined, but the local people kept their faith so that the present generation have a place to worship God."
The celebrations started in May with a barbecue. A Flower Festival with Harvest service was held in September to mark the anniversary of John Wesley's visit. The theme of the Flower Festival was "Hymns through the ages" and some very old hymns were depicted, including the hymns of Watts and Wesley, as well as some of the more modern songs.
On the anniversary Sunday in October there was a special Songs of Praise. Nine representatives of families that had long associations with the church over many years were invited to choose a hymn and speak about their family connection. During the six weeks between the harvest and anniversary Sundays some of the ministers and preachers with connections to the church were invited to lead worship. The celebrations concluded with an anniversary supper at a local golf club.
(Source: Buzz 114)
From: North Road Methodist Church, Durham
The story of the Christmas journey is spreading in Durham. North Road Methodist Church was transformed into Bethlehem with the help of five gazebos, drapes and backdrops.
Children from the local primary school journeyed around each gazebo meeting Mary, becoming shepherds on the Bethlehem hillside, hearing about the birth of Jesus told by the stable animals and finding out what led the wisemen to visit Jesus.
Anne Offler, the Circuit Children and Young People's Development Worker, said: "The Christmas Journey was a fantastic opportunity to make or develop links with primary schools and an amazing way to share the Christmas message with as many six and seven-year-olds as you can squeeze into a gazebo! Jesus told stories which sowed seeds into people's hearts. He told them what God was like, how much he loved them and how he invited them to help change the world and restore it. He challenged the darkness changing the lives of those who drew close to him, and was crucified and rose again. Jesus today invites all of us into his light to carry his story to others. We are all part of God's plan to make the world a better place."
This is the third year the Christmas Journey has been hosted by North Road Methodist Church. Anne Offler introduced it and invited church teams from other areas to come in to see the project. Around 1,000 children have engaged with the message of Christmas through the Christmas Journey.
Anne added: "School children and staff are amazed by the Christmas Journey. It is a fantastic way to engage local schools and a real privilege to share the Christmas message."
(Source: Buzz 113)
Church opens doors to Reading Festival
From: Emmanuel Methodist Church, Oxford Road, Reading
Following the success of a trial run in 2011, Emmanuel Methodist Church decided to open its doors to Reading Festival-goers over the whole weekend this year. Members of the Boys' and Girls' Brigade slept overnight at the Church and began serving breakfast at 8am on Friday morning along with the help of church members. They had a steady stream of customers and, by mid-day, had served around 65 full English breakfasts, breakfast butties and drinks.
David Wright, from Emmanuel Methodist Church, said: "When Saturday morning dawned it was apparent that word had spread. The kitchen was swamped with orders and they were running out of food fast. By the time the kitchen closed they had served over 140 breakfasts. The increase in demand was unprecedented, but everyone was determined not to be caught off-guard the following day. The lounge was re-arranged, tables were laid in the garden, and enough food bought to cover a repeat of the day's business and also for the café-style Sunday church service."
The Sunday service was led by a local preacher on her first visit to Emmanuel Methodist Church. The service began with prayers and a hymn followed by a round-the-table discussion on "Living Bread" during which orders were taken from the congregation for breakfast and tea and coffee were served. Over 400 meals were served over the three days.
David added: "Although the weekend did not go without a few hitches, the general consensus was that, although it was hard work, it was greatly appreciated by the Festival-goers. All were polite, friendly and grateful to the Church and the Brigades for giving them somewhere clean where they were made welcome, able to use the toilets and have a good reasonably priced meal."
(Source: Buzz 112)
Gwennap Pit celebrates first visit of John Wesley
From: Cornwall Methodist District
On 5th September 1762, John Wesley preached from Gwennap Pit, the now famous amphitheatre near Redruth in Cornwall, because, "the wind was so high at five that I could not stand in the usual place at Gwennap". On the same date and time this year, the Revd Dr Lord Leslie Griffiths of Wesley's Chapel, London, preached from the same place at Gwennap Pit as part of the celebrations to mark the 250th anniversary.
Visitors from the USA, Germany, South Africa and various corners of Britain were among the large congregation. Under a cloudless sky, Lord Leslie Griffiths said: "It is good to be here on the same date and at the same time that John Wesley first preached here."
There were Bible readings by Tony Langford and Jenny Lockwood - members of the Gwennap Pit Management Committee - and the pianist was Brian Watts. Lord Leslie Griffiths added that had John Wesley been around today, he would have been be an avid tweeter (a user of social media).
Following the service, the gathering went to the nearby Lanner Methodist Chapel for a Cornish tea, after which spectators enjoyed watching a drama, "And John Wesley Came to Cornwall", written for the occasion by Methodist preacher, Tony Jasper, of the Jasperian Theatre Company. Tony Jasper was joined on stage by professional actress Cathy Sara whose many credits include BBC Radio 4's The Archers and BBC TV's Downton Abbey. A group of folk singers and dancers from Cornwall, Ros Keltic, also took part.
Tony Langford said: "Both Tony Jasper and Cathy Sara gave performances of a high standard in a production packed with information and laced with humour."
(Source: Buzz 111)
More than Gold
From: Marlow Methodist Church in Buckinghamshire
When Marlow Methodist Church signed up to the More Than Gold programme, Sue and Paddy Gallaugher decided to open up their home to Lawrence Ndlovu (a rower from South Africa) and his girlfriend Marcia. Lawrence, who was a stroke for the South African Lightweight Four, gained an historic victory in front of a large audience at Dorney Lake when he took the first ever rowing Gold Medal for South Africa, pushing Team GB into Silver Medal position.
On the following Sunday, Lawrence and Marcia attended the Sunday Live Service (a multi media service for young families) at Marlow Methodist Church in Buckinghamshire.
Jackie Duxbury, senior steward, said: "The crowd was not quite as large at Marlow Church, but the applause was no less rapturous - children crowded round to see Lawrence's magnificent medal and to hear him talk about the hard road to victory. It had taken over two years to mould his crew into a real team. During that time, Lawrence had an injury to his wrist that kept him off the water for three months. His chronic asthma was another challenge that had to be controlled through the long periods of training. The team only get two rest days a year! When asked how this affected this walk with God, Lawrence replied that he needed to be as disciplined in his prayer life as he was in his physical training."
Throughout this time, Lawrence's number one supporter, Marcia, was just as consistent as he was. Long training camps would take Lawrence away from home for weeks at a time and this was sometimes hard to take. Keeping any relationship going in such conditions is hard work, but when asked if she would do it again, Marcia was in no doubt: "Thursday felt like the best day in my life" She replied. "I am so happy!"
The Revd David Miller said: "We pray that God will be close to both of you, whether in the boat, or waiting on the shore".
(Source: Buzz 110)
Olympic Fever in Weymouth and Portland
From: The Portland Circuit, Dorset
Methodist churches in Weymouth and Portland are at the heart of an ecumenical project that is bringing the Olympics to the local area. Around 4,500 volunteers from local churches and further afield have come together to host Refresh 2012 on the south coast. Hayley Moss, Youth President Designate, is part of the Refresh Village team helping to run the show. The huge event includes cafes, children's clubs, Messy Church games, entertainment, art, face painting and Boudin tents as well as sporting activities.
Chris Briggs, Portland Circuit, said: "The Refresh 2012 programme is being run in the second largest Olympics venue in Weymouth and Portland. We're seeking to be refreshing and uplifting - an oasis of God's presence wherever we go and whatever we do. We also have street pastors out every night. This is the Church participating in God's mission in creative proactive ways which seek to bless people."
A stage will be set up over the Bank Holiday with a "Refresh on the Beach" programme that will feature children and youth activities, bands and the international speaker, Andrew Palau. Refresh 2012 will also run a programme for the Paralympics.
(Source: Buzz 109)
Pentecost taken to the community
From: Midsomer Norton Methodist Church
This has been the eighth year that local Churches Together held a Whit-Fun-Day in North East Somerset. Whit-Fun-Day usually takes place on the Somervale School Playing Field in Midsomer Norton, or in the school if it's raining. From 3pm to 6.30pm on Whit Sunday, Midsomer Norton Methodist Church provided a free afternoon of entertainment on the theme of Pentecost.
Marjorie Gilson said: "This year we had perfect blue skies and hardly a cloud to be seen till we were packing up. Over 800 folk who came through the gates to take part in various events which included: skittles, prayer tent, face painting, badge making, biscuit making, Christian bikers, three bouncy castles, ride-on model steam train, Somerset Morris Dancers, the Renewal Gospel Choir, Downside School Bagpipes, Healing on the Streets Team, Vertical Xtreme climbing wall, small animals from Bristol Zoo and various craft and game stalls."
Tea, coffee and squash were available all the afternoon as was a 'sandwich and cake' tea. Folk came and helped themselves, enjoying the Renewal Choir singing Gospel songs and leading people in worship. People also enjoyed watching a drama, singing community hymns and praying. Vernon Stokes, former Olympic Triple Jump Champion and a founder member of the Renewal Choir, spoke about his life.
(Source: Buzz 108)
A cup of tea: committing to small and rural church
From: Gloucestershire Circuit
When the Gloucestershire Circuit was set up in 2008, people recognised that the small rural churches were among its greatest assets. The circuit has committed itself to supporting them, convincing them that they are valued, and encouraging them to grow.
The circuit now holds an annual get-together for the small and rural churches - not a formal meeting: no agenda or speakers, just a cup of tea, a biscuit and a piece of cake. It is hosted by one of the small churches, and anyone from any of the small churches is invited to come along, meet other people, and share experiences.
Alan Jackson said: "We open in prayer, we introduce ourselves, we drink and eat, we come together so that people can ask questions or raise issues that matter to them. We close with a very brief devotion. That is all. Yet people are delighted just to meet other people sharing the same burdens, the same concerns, the same challenges and - I suspect - the same astonishment that anyone in the circuit cares."
The latest "Cup Of Tea" was held at Bailey Lane End Methodist Church - a tiny but charming chapel deep in the countryside, just over the border in Herefordshire. The dedication of the few people living in that tiny hamlet to the work of God is admirable.
Alan added: "It is not the sort of event that has measurable consequences, but we have seen over the past few years a resurgence in confidence among the small churches, a renewed commitment to their communities, and a new determination that, when a problem arises, they no longer assume that it is the end, but instead look for ways round that will not only help them survive, but even grow."
(Source: Buzz 107)
Easter Message Passed on to Commuters
From: Heaton Moor Methodist Church in Stockport
Heaton Moor United Church - an ecumenical partnership of Methodists and United Reformists - worked with the local Plough public house this Easter. Church members handed out free coffee, buns and a booklet about Easter to commuters on their way to the train station. Ian Wardle, landlord of The Plough, was only too happy to help. "We are continuing to work together for the benefit of the community," he said. "This work has built upon a partnership that started at Christmas when the church and pub held a beer and carols evening in The Plough."
The church and the pub are planning to do more together in the months ahead with the start of a monthly discussion group meeting in The Plough. The Revd Stuart Radcliffe said: "We wanted to do something a bit different during Holy Week, to reach out and share something of God's love to busy working people as they rush to work. Meeting people where they are at is how Jesus shows His love to us, and in doing this we hope to show the people of The Heatons a little of God's love and care."
(Source: Buzz 106)
Welcoming visitors into the church
From: Oxford Place Methodist Church in Leeds
Each week the church's worshipping congregation is different. There are a core of people who have been attached to Oxford Place for many years and there are those who reside temporarily Leeds. Then there are visitors who are only in Leeds for a few days. Among these groups are students (often from other countries), people who have left their own countries for various reasons (refugees, asylum seekers, immigrants from Europe or from further afield). There are also people who come from other churches who feel at home at Oxford Place.
Ken Tait said: "As we get to know those who stay with us and realise that many of them are in the early stages of their Christian journey, our superintendent minister, Adrian Burdon, will make a general offer of a series of meetings to discuss what it means to be a Christian and offer ways of responding to the call of Christ. This time the offer was taken up by an usually large number of people who eventually became baptised and confirmed. We are not a church that has many weddings or many infant baptisms and so to have infant and adult baptisms and confirmations on one day was an event of major significance."
(Source: Buzz 105)
Olympic Torch Run
From: St John's Methodist Church Market Weighton
Writing in his church magazine, Tom said that he was proud to run as a Christian for the Methodist Church and for the Boys Brigade. "A few months ago Revd Sue mentioned she'd nominated me to carry the Olympic Flame as part of its relay around the country," he said. "It's fair to say that I did not expect anything to come of it. In December we found out that the nomination had been successful and that on June 20 I would be an Olympic torchbearer. It is hard to describe what an incredible feeling it is and how proud I am to have been selected. However, at no point will I forget that what I do is as a representative of 1st Market Weighton Boys Brigade and of St John's."
The Revd Sue Pegg said: "When Tom's father died suddenly nearly four years ago Tom took it upon himself to carry on his work as the leader of the Boys Brigade. Despite working in Scarborough during the week Tom travels back every Friday to Market Weighton in order to lead the Brigade. He also gives up most of his leisure time to run events during the holidays and at weekends. His work and that of his team of officers has reached out to some 70 local young people."
(Source: Buzz 104)
Welcoming people at Christmas
From: St Thomas' Road Methodist Church, Derby
Christmas Day morning saw more than 20 people worshipping God at St Thomas' Road Methodist Church in Derby while they had their breakfast. Church members wanted to offer something which would be acceptable to all ages, but particularly to those who might be on their own on Christmas Day.
Jean Parton said: "Being a small and mostly older congregation, it had to be an occasion not requiring too much organisation. Our Minister, Revd Lindsay Kemp, hit on the idea of a breakfast. The Church sanctuary was transformed into a very stylish festive café offering a continental breakfast.
"Between munching croissants and drinking coffee, we sang carols, heard the Christmas story and worshipped God in an informal but meaningful, joyous way. The occasion was deemed to be a success and may be the forerunner of more café-style worship in the future."
(Source: Buzz 103)
Outreach through art
From: Plymouth Methodist Central Hall
An art project linked to a Methodist church took Plymouth by storm this year. Just over two thousand years ago a comet, or star, moved across the eastern Mediterranean skies to herald the birth of a child. The Gathering was a contemporary art installation created as a Fringe event during the final week of the British Art Show 7 in Plymouth. It featured around 60 life-sized figures, created by community, church and school groups, to represent the millions whose lives have been transformed by Jesus. The Gathering, hosted by Plymouth Central Hall, reminded its participants of the significance of this historical moment for every individual and for the future of our planet.
Dave Martin, Mission Enabler, said: "We produced a Faith Action Audit two years ago with help of the University to demonstrate to the city council the extent to which the faith communities contribute to the social care of the city. When you convert the voluntary contribution into paid hours it works out at £2.8 million!
"The council helped us to secure a good city centre venue for the exhibition as all the galleries were taken up with British Art Show 7. That proved too difficult, so Plymouth Methodist Central Hall generously offered to host us. They are ideally placed right opposite the Drake Circus shopping centre and they too are trying to find all kinds of ways of connecting with the city centre population. It's a very different kind of ministry."
(Source: Buzz 102)
Reaching out to young people
From: Warlingham Church in the Purley Circuit
Six years ago the Warlingham Church in the Purley Circuit had a vision to provide outreach in the community. This vision was realised as a youth group for 11 to 14-year-olds with a programme varied on a regular basis to appeal to both boys and girls. When the original youngsters outgrew the club, a separate group was set up for older teenagers. The "Thursday Club" is based upon the Alpha model of sharing a meal and a talk. It now attracts more than 20 older teenagers on a regular basis, some of whom now serve as junior leaders to the younger club.
Brian Sherrell said: "We are seeing young lives changed as they hear the gospel of Christ for themselves and make a personal commitment. As a result we are now seeing teenagers who hadn't previously gone to church coming on a Sunday morning and actively taking a leading role by helping to lead worship through music and drama. We also now employ a full time youth worker."
(Source: Buzz 101)
Circuit stand at Ashbourne Show
From: Ashbourne Circuit
This year the Ashbourne Circuit in Derbyshire had a stand at the Ashbourne Show as part of a new outreach venture aiming to raise the profile of the church in the area. White gazebos, white tables with a red centrepiece and flowers, white sail banners with the red Methodist orb and the red and white Methodist Church banner all contributed to a professional display that received many compliments.
The stand offered face painting, a play area for children, someone on hand to listen and serve cups of tea or coffee. A gazebo was set up to cover the stand in case of bad weather, but fortunately the day remained dry until it was time to go home at 5pm.
John Hurfurt said: "We were blessed with numerous visitors, many of whom said how much they appreciated what we had to offer. Members of the circuit were on hand to talk to people and offer drinks. We must have had over 500 visitors from near and far, from local churches, from distant churches and from none. The face painting team was kept busy all day. Our team worked hard to produce displays of the work of our Circuit, a celebration of the Year of the Bible and the Methodist Handwritten Bible."
The stand also displayed information leaflets about Methodist Church tracts about the Christian faith and information about the Alpha course. All were well received.
(Source: Buzz 100)
District Fun Day reaches for the skies
From: The Lincoln and Grimsby District
"When cars started to roll into the car park at the Lincolnshire Aviation Heritage Centre at East Kirkby on 17 July for the Lincoln and Grimsby District Fun Day we were excited that plans had come together and that people of all ages had travelled from far and wide to be there", reports Alison McNish, PA to the Lincoln & Grimsby District Chair.
The Aviation Heritage Centre, kindly loaned to the district by local Methodists, Fred and Harold Panton, provided a perfect venue with plenty of space for activities, craft, games and picnics, all with the dramatic backdrop of a Lancaster bomber. Visitors were able to explore the museum at their leisure and take part in the activities and games organised by members of the District Youth Team. Outgoing Chair of District, David Perry, had the opportunity to sit in the cockpit of the Lancaster and he was later seen in the stocks where the ministerial synod secretary made sure that he got very wet!
Visitors also had the opportunity to see two exciting youth mission projects, the "God Pod" mini bus from Lincoln North Circuit and the ecumenically run "Road Hog" double decker bus which is based in the Boston area. Both of these exemplary projects have received financial support from the District Advance Fund.
The afternoon concluded with worship in the hangar, led by the District Mission Enabler, the Revd Liz Childs, with music by Jonathan Nowell and band. Liz paid tribute to David's ministry in the district and invited those present to gather round David to pray for him and his future ministry in Hull West. Ecumenical guests including the chair of Churches Together in All Lincolnshire, a bishop, a Baptist regional minister and an archdeacon were among the congregation. At the close of the service the Revd Jennifer Park, outgoing deputy chair, thanked David for his ministry and presented him with a gift from the district.
(Source: Buzz 99)
Rain didn't stop play at Circuit Family Fun Day
From: Middlesborough and Eston Circuit
The heavens opened during Middlesbrough and Eston Circuit's Family Fun Day on Saturday 9 July but it didn't dampen the enthusiasm of all those who attended. The free event was held in Stewart Park, Middlesborough and was a part of a weekend of circuit mission events.
Liz Milburn, organising committee member, reported that "we were able to get everything set up and started off before the rain came down in bucketfuls. As one of the organisers, I was really disappointed with the weather, but people told me afterwards that it really didn't matter and we certainly had lots of fun. Friendship and fellowship developed as people gathered together inside tents and under gazebos while they sheltered from the rain.
"Members of the public, enjoying an afternoon in the park, took part in the games, created origami shapes in the Chinese tent, bounced on the bouncy castle, had their faces painted and watched the Punch and Judy shows, all the time trying to dodge the showers. Martin, our superintendent, in football kit and dog collar, continued to play football with anyone game - he was still drying out as he led the circuit service the next day. A grandad and his three grandsons were playing football with Martin - one of the young boys remarked that he didn't know Christians played football. Martin was able to tell him that Christians are just normal people, who can have fun, but love Jesus and want to share that with others. Fantastic!
"We ended up giving into the weather eventually and moved to Marton Methodist Church, our wet weather venue, where the South Bank Brass Band had already set up and were entertaining people who had gone directly there, because of the weather. The day ended with a fantastic sing-along, whilst everyone dried out. We also raffled two stadium tours, courtesy of Middlesbrough Football Club, proceeds of which went to offset the costs of the day.
During the sing-along, the bouncy castle man, Mark, came up to me and offered a free bouncy castle for a different date so that we could have another event to celebrate all the hard work that had gone into this day. Yet again showing us the fantastic work God does around us, helping us to share and spread his love."
(Source: Buzz 98)
Southport Beach Labyrinth
From: Southport, Lancashire
How do you begin to sum up the experience of more than 450 people walking a beach labyrinth over three days? "It's not possible", writes Andrew, Cornwall Methodist youth enabler and beach labyrinth man! "What I do know," he says "is that something remarkable was going on."
Marshside Road Methodist Church provided a base for the team of 12, who came from all parts of the country to build the labyrinth, talk and pray with people, provide information for those who wanted to take their journey with God further and to support each other and the event through prayer, praise and great fellowship.
Digging the labyrinth and witnessing its dedication and use were all powerful visual aids to those in the vicinity. Hundreds of people stopped, either beside the labyrinth on the beach or on the pier above, to ask what was happening. People were told that the pathway through the labyrinth represented part of our journey through life. At the entrance people were invited to pick up a piece of litter which symbolised rubbish in their life that they would be freer without and during their walk to the centre to talk to God about this and listen for his help and guidance. Those who had no belief or relationship with God were invited to use the time and space to reflect on any situation which was causing them concern. At the centre was a large simple cross, made of driftwoood, where people were invited bury their litter and pick up a stone.
Andrew continues, "People engaged with an invitation to walk this path on the beach on an extraordinary scale. On one day alone, we counted 237 pieces of rubbish left at the cross in the centre - 237 journeys made by people letting go of the rubbish in their lives, leaving it behind for God to deal with, and walking out in hope, holding a stone; a solid reminder of a fresh start.
"One group for me epitomised the breadth of appeal for walking the labyrinth, and the breadth of God's love for all. A Hindu, a Sikh and a Muslim were all part of a group chatting with a Christian (member of the team) who invited them to walk the labyrinth, which they all did and then encouraged the rest of their party to join in too. Does this kind of thing happen in your church? Mine neither!
"The final afternoon was like the United Nations. Within a few minutes I had spoken to people from the USA, New Zealand, Poland and Costa Rica. The lady from Costa Rica said, 'It was such a wonderful experience, I cried'. She had been praying the day before asking God to show her a way of helping those in her country to know more of God's love. She took a team member's email address so that she could get information about organising a labyrinth and is hoping to do that in Costa Rica, a place with an abundance of beaches."
At the end of the three days, the team dispersed and the labyrinth was washed away by the tide but God will continue his work among those who met him on the beach in Southport. You can read the full report here.
(Source: Buzz 97)
Flower festival proves popular with tourists
From: Dersingham Methodist Church
Dersingham Methodist Church in the West Norfolk Circuit hosted its annual flower festival over the late May bank holiday. Although the village is not big, it is on a popular tourist track and so the flower festival attracts a lot of visitors as well as locals.
Over five days hundreds of people came into the church. In the main chapel the windows were dressed with flower displays on biblical themes, and this year all of these related to gifts and talents. Most of the 12 displays were created by members of the church, but others were done by groups, including two from local schools, which helped bring lots of parents and friends through the doors. A visitor guide explained each display and the relevant Bible verses, and also meant that visitors left with a list of what else the church does throughout the week. The rooms behind the church hosted "the gift of creativity" - paintings and other artwork by members and local artists. Lunch was available in the church hall where some stalls were set up selling books, CDs, plants and second-hand items.
Overall, more than 200 meals were served and over £2400 raised, after expenses, of which £500 went to the incubator unit at the local hospital and the remainder to church funds. But most important was the number of people coming to the church, some of the first time, and all leaving with smiles on their faces.
(Source: Buzz 96)
Poetry and Puddings - a perfect combination
From: Central Methodist Church, Letchworth Garden City
Notices went up for a poems and puddings event to be held at church. What would be a good pud to accompany Roald Dahl's 'Candy Man'? A sun soaked strawberry-lemon pie perhaps. Or would Pam Ayres' 'I Wish I'd Looked After Me Teeth' cause us to reconsider the sugar content of delectable desserts?
Celia Saunders of Letchworth Central Methodist Church reports that the evening attracted around 50 adults and children, many of whom were happy to read poems of their own choice, either ones they had written or others written by well known poets e.g. Roald Dahl, Pam Ayres and Joyce Grenfell. The accent was on amusing poems, to make people laugh. Lots of delicious puddings, including some for those with diabetes, were made and donated by church members.
The event ran on a Friday evening from 6-8pm and cost nothing. Donations amounting to £196 were sent to the Herts Air Ambulance Service. "It was a really lovely evening", concluded Celia.
(Source: Buzz 94)
Hope Theatre Cafe
From: Christchurch URC/Methodist Church, Cardiff
Hope Theatre Cafe is a great, welcoming venue in Cardiff where you can see a Christian performer, theatre company, singer, musician or mime artist. A special evening out at the theatre and a fresh expression of church!
Anne Middleton and husband Revd Darren Middleton of the Hope Theatre Cafe believe that the arts have a way of transcending barriers. They see the Cafe very much as a place where people can bring friends and family because it is 'neutral' territory'. One audience member said, ironically, 'you wouldn't get me in a church'!
Upcoming performances include the Lantern Theatre Company performing The Hiding Place in June and gospel Illusionist, Steve Price, appearing in July. All performers share their message of hope in Jesus, through their own art form.
The winning formula is for the audience to be seated around small tables and treated to free tea, coffee and home made cakes. The cafe opens at 7pm and the performance starts at 7.30pm. Afterwards prayer and an opportunity to chat is sometimes offered and a few people who have been to performances have since been to church.
Anne and Darren are encouraged that the Hope Theatre Cafe team has committed help from volunteers, especially as it is likely that they will move on within the next two years. Their hope is that, now established, the theatre cafe will continue its successful run for years to come.
(Source: Buzz 93)
Cook @ Chapel
From: Hanslope Methodist Chapel, Buckinghamshire
A Fresh Expressions vision day inspired teacher Katharine Crowsley to ask a lot of questions about what God wanted her to do in her area. She tells the story of what happened next. My church is Hanslope Methodist Chapel in Buckinghamshire; it's very family friendly but I wondered if we were reaching young people - not only our own young people but other young people in the wider community?
One thing that really stood out for me from that vision day was the story of a 'bread-making church' in Liverpool. Although this was established in a very different geographical and social context to ours, I really liked the idea of praying and worshipping, talking about Jesus when cooking, and then eating a meal together. A lot of teenagers don't want to sit around and talk to you but many will have a conversation while they are doing something else.
When I went to the Church Council for support, they asked me to first test the idea. I linked up with a community food worker and we did a six-week trial before I applied for a grant. We drew up different menus and asked if we could do it for those aged 12 to 16. We got the go-ahead to run it for the academic year from September to July, and we're now into our second year. The Methodist Church gave us a fresh expressions grant with our chapel and local community having to match-fund it.
We run Cook@Chapel on Friday evenings for two hours and about 7-9 young people come along; we couldn't accommodate any more than that. Jamie Oliver has fired a lot of interest in cookery among young people but it is our volunteers who have been the experts. We generally have one main volunteer and two more on standby. Young people don't do much cookery at school now so they tell us what they would like to learn and we do it - things like cheese sauce, chilli con carne, tortillas and lemon drizzle cake.
After we've made the food we sit down and eat together; it's very informal - they really like that. They also like to take it in turns to say grace using our grace dice. Conversations around the table and while cooking can be about all sorts of things. Originally I thought I would need young volunteers to link to these young people but I was wrong. The older people have been ideal, they relate to our 'cooks' in a different way and sometimes they can talk to them very much more comfortably about faith issues.
The young people who come to Cook@Chapel don't necessarily come to our church, in fact only two to three of them do but questions about faith and spirituality come up quite naturally again and again.
Following on from this initiative I became involved in a youth service called Cross Purposes that takes place every month in nearby Newport Pagnell. It's a joint Anglican, Methodist, URC and Baptist project at Newport Pagnell United Reformed Church but a lot of its planning and delivery is done by the young people themselves. My vision is to link Cook@Chapel to Cross Purposes - It's not too difficult a leap when it's young people inviting young people to go along and find out more. As we look into 2011 and beyond, we pray that will happen.
(Source: Buzz 91)
Reach Out Market Stall
From: St John's Methodist/URC Church, Stafford Circuit
Some years ago, members at St. John's Methodist/URC church had a vision for a Christian bookshop in Stone, Staffs. Unfortunately the rent and overheads were far too high, so the suggestion was made to have a monthly market stall in the High Street. This was started in August 2008 with the help of a grant from the Stafford Circuit of £1,000 to cover membership of the National Market Traders Federation (which gives public liability insurance), balloons, a banner and other equipment. St. John's Mission Fund has also given financial support.
Every month around 150 balloons bearing the church's name are given to children. At Christmas and Easter they are also given colouring sheets with the appropriate story. Some months ladies are given a single flower with a text attached. 315 mince pies were given away with serviettes with the Christmas message and a copy of Christmas in Your Pocket in December 2009. 240 hot cross buns with a serviette carrying an Easter message were given away in April 2010. Since the stall began, 31 Bibles and over £4,000 worth of Christian books, cards and gifts (provided on sale or return by the Methodist Book Centre at Hanley) have been sold.
There is a team of around 20 willing helpers on the day, and many people who are unable to work on the stall help in the preparations. The costs of the stall rent are largely covered by members and friends throughout the Circuit who kindly give surplus cards which are sold at reasonable prices. Church members give mince pies and hot cross buns or £1 towards them, so many people support this outreach.
The main purpose of the stall is being there and being friendly! People come and share their stories of illness, bereavement and other concerns. There has been a pastoral visit referral, and a teacher who had to teach Bible stories and who didn't know any was able to buy books. Children's Bibles and prayer books are bought for babies' baptisms. Christians from other churches and denominations come to chat.
An unexpected bonus of the stall is the closer friendships that are developing as we spend time working together. We have also been strengthened in our faith as we have learnt to depend on God to provide the resources we need to continue.
(Source: Buzz 90)
Welcome to a new Methodist church
From: The Welcome Church, Alderley Edge and Knutsford Circuit
On 19 September 2010, the Alderley Edge and Knutsford Circuit came together to celebrate the formation of The Welcome Methodist Church on the Longridge Estate in Knutsford, Cheshire.
Over 50 people attended a rededication of the buildings for the use of The Welcome Church and Café. After a walk of witness across the estate, they joined another 50 friends from around the circuit and beyond to celebrate together. The Revd Dr Keith Davies, Chair of the Manchester and Stockport District, formally dedicated the buildings. Revd Ben Clowes, minister of The Welcome, led the circuit celebration in a 'Welcome' style, using a quiz and visual aids alongside prayers using peas, led by two members of the church!
The Welcome began in 1995 on the Longridge estate in Knutsford, an area of concentrated deprivation in the same electoral ward as some multi-million pound Cheshire-set houses. This community of 2000+ residents has been served over the years by a number of lay staff, deacons and presbyters but The Welcome continuously maintained clear objectives for the future.
The Welcome Café was formed in 2010 to run the business operations of the café whilst still adhering to the charitable objectives of serving the people of Longridge. The café serves good value food and provides a space for craft clubs, toddler groups, educational workshops, computer clubs and youth cafés. This work is done alongside the work of The Welcome Church through prayer and Bible study groups, 'Little Stars' (Sunday School on a Thursday after school) and the regular café-style interactive worship.
On 5 September 2010, the church membership increased to 14 with the confirmation of two long-standing attendees of the Sunday worship, and members of the community have already booked the first baptism in the new church. The church meets in the café on a Sunday afternoon either around a meal to celebrate communion or over tea and cakes.
"Through this first-generation Fresh Expression we can see the desire for some to be recognised as truly church, even if their style of worshipping is different. The people of Longridge named their church, and wanted it to be formally recognised. Now a different phase of the life of The Welcome begins as the work continues", commented minister, Revd Ben Clowes.
Bus shelter nativity in Littletown
From: Birstall and Spen Circuit
Last year, a nationwide Christian advertising campaign caught the imagination of Methodists in the Birstall and Spen Circuit, West Yorkshire, and they raised enough funds to sponsor three bus shelter ads. The poster campaign, organised by ChurchAds.Net, used an arresting image of the traditional nativity scene set in a modern bus shelter with the slogan 'Christmas starts with Christ'.
Pressure from commercial advertisers meant poster sites close to sponsoring churches couldn't be guaranteed but members of St Andrew's Methodist Church, Littletown, who had generously supported the circuit appeal, were delighted to hear that a bus shelter outside the nearby primary school would display the poster for the fortnight before Christmas.
Children from the school had already performed their nativity play and sung carols for the church's Friendship Club so the circuit arranged to sing carols outside the school (and bus shelter) at the close of the final day of term. Unfortunately, ice and snow made the pavements treacherous that day and only four intrepid carol-singers managed the journey. The school came to the rescue and, as parents assembled at the school gate, the Year 6 class sang a selection of carols. Church members were so pleased that as the school term ended and the Christmas holidays began, the focus of attention was the birth of a baby in a stable/shelter.
Maybe your church or circuit could sponsor a bus shelter advertisement this Christmas and remind everyone that Christmas starts with Christ. Visit the www.churchads.net website for more information.
(Source: Buzz 88)
Mustard Seed growing to fit the whole community
From: Chapel en le Frith Methodist Church, High Peak Circuit
The Mustard Seed is a new community based project run by Chapel en le Frith Methodist Church and aims to provide a welcoming, friendly place providing coffee, tea and a range of refreshments using Fairtrade and other ethically sourced products whenever possible. Internet facilities will be provided, which will expand the opportunities that the Mustard Seed can provide.
Apart from the coffee shop, we also want to show that the church is supporting the local community through events such as a book club, dementia help group or advice and information sessions. Groups that the church wants to target are:
Young people - a safe environment for young people to drop into for information and social activities, including internet access, and a place for them to undertake activities to develop and extend their faith.
30s to 40s - a meeting place to help develop relationships with the 30s to 40s, particularly with parents, by attracting them in the early morning or afternoon when they are taking and collecting their children from the local school.
Outside agencies - an opportunity for agencies to use the premises for providing support and advice sessions.
The Mustard Seed is run by volunteers and has been supported through grants from Manchester and Stockport District and Chapel en le Frith Parish Council, which also donated computer equipment.
(Source: Buzz 87)
Beach labyrinth attracts hundreds
From: Methodists across the Connexion
During the first week of August a team of 18, mainly Methodists from different parts of the country, enjoyed a week of mission on Southport beach, but this was no 'ordinary' beach mission. "Each day we dug a labyrinth in the sand which, over the week, attracted between 300-400 people", reports Eunice Palmer (Sunderland) who jointly organised the mission with Revd Steve Wild (Cornwall).
It proved to be a fantastic tool to lead people into a 'God Space' and also to create curiosity which led to many good conversations. Viewing from the nearby pier, people stopped to watch the labyrinth being dug, and when it was completed would trace its pathway asking what it was all about?
We did not 'collar' anyone or force people to talk to us. We waited prayerfully for those people who gave us eye contact before offering them a leaflet and their further response determined what happened next.
All those who walked through the labyrinth took with them a piece of rubbish that represented something in their life that they wanted to be rid of. At the centre, people embedded their rubbish in the sand castle, under a simple driftwood cross, representing their giving up the rubbish to God. Folk then picked up a stone and walked away without their rubbish. The stone was to help them remember their encounter with God on the beach at Southport and also, if they kept it in their pocket, could feel it and remember that they can talk to God and give him their 'rubbish' at any time and place.
The labyrinth was walked by people of all ages and varying cultures and some left saying it was the best thing they had ever done and they felt clean.
On leaving the labyrinth one evening, Cliff, one of the team, said, "We looked back over the sea wall to see a man and his young son walking the labyrinth. This reminded me that others are there to take over when we leave, and God, Son and Holy Spirit are still there to welcome whoever or whatever moves on the earth".
(Source: Buzz 86)
Churches exalt God's name in harmony
From: Chester-le-Street Methodist Church
"The vision for 'exalt' came out of a time of prayer during a Sunday morning service", reports Alan Irvin, Methodist local preacher in the Chester-le-Street Circuit. "We felt a need to create a contemporary act of worship that would appeal to those who are unfamiliar with modern forms of worship and also provide an opportunity for smaller churches in the region to be part of something bigger. We took on the challenge of the words of Psalm 34:3 "let us exalt his name together".... hence the name.
We decided to hold 'exalt' on a Saturday evening and publicized it via flyers, posters, word of mouth, emailings and a website: http://www.exalthisname.webs.com We invited any musicians to arrive early and join an ad-hoc music group.
The response exceeded our expectations. Fourteen musicians arrived to form the music group, made up of individuals from six different churches, including two keyboard players who played at different times in the worship. The congregation included people from 14 churches - Methodist, Anglican and Pentecostal, and in our prayers we celebrated and prayed for the ongoing witness and faithfulness of these churches in their communities.
A sermon based on Hebrews 10:23-25 reminded the congregation of the need to "motivate and encourage one another" knowing that God is faithful. We used strips of fabric, individually, tied in groups and then joined across the whole congregation to symbolise our unity. Many people then laid their strips at the foot of a cross as a sign of commitment to encourage others.
The feedback from those who attended was that the event was spiritually uplifting and something we should do on a regular basis and the next 'exalt' is planned for Saturday 23 October."
(Source: Buzz 85)
Summer Praise hits the streets of Blackpool
From: New Central Methodist Church, Blackpool
Being in the centre of Blackpool's leisure and shopping centre means we need to cater for tourists as well as residents. During July and August we hold Summer Praise every Sunday afternoon on the pedestrianised street outside the church. The worship is loud and lively. There's plenty of community singing and participation.
Last summer the worship included many different attention-catchers including brass bands, balloons and belly-dancing - all contributing to getting the gospel message across in an entertaining and accessible way.
This year's Summer Praise begins on 11 July (World Cup Final day) with an act of worship on the street titled 'The Ultimate Goal'.
(Source: Buzz 84)
Camping in Swanage this summer?
From Swanage Methodist Church, Poole and Swanage Circuit
This summer, Boys' Brigade, Girls' Brigade, Scouts, Brownies and youth groups who camp in Swanage will be able to experience the brand new 'Church On Tour', launched by Swanage Methodist Church.
The tour (provided free of charge) will visit various camping groups on their campsite to lead a fun and exciting time of worship, relevant to each group's youth or children. It is anticipated that this will complement a group's own programme of devotions and church parades.
Complete with songs, games, stories and a relevant message, the tour will be led in an informal manner with opportunities for all to enjoy and participate. It will be led according to the group's ages and requirements and could be tailored to the theme of a camp or holiday.
It is hoped that many groups will wish to take up the free opportunity of inviting 'Church on Tour' to their camp in Swanage this summer.
(Source: Buzz 83)
Lewes Passion Play takes the message to the streets
From Christ Church United Reformed and Methodist Church, Lewes, East Sussex
"You've heard the expression, 'Two heads are better than one' so, with that in mind, several of our churches put their proverbial heads together to produce a spectacular four act Passion Play to mark Holy Week 2010," explains Tony Law, Methodist local preacher.
Lewes Churches Together treated the assembled crowds, who had gathered in the town's historic streets, to a powerful re-enactment of the Passion of Christ: the trial, suffering and death of the Christian Messiah. Our Easter Sunday performance of the drama, staged in Lewes' s Grange Gardens, drew an especially large crowd consisting of both devotees and curious passers-by.
Tony continued, "Our message of resurrection and renewal really seemed to hit home. The event was inspired by our first Passion Play performed a whopping 10 years ago to celebrate the Millennium. We have vowed that it won't be another decade before we stage the next one!
The play brought together members of many of our churches to prepare, learn, act and think together. We all made new friends. We were simply one in Christ Jesus."
(Source: Buzz 82)
20+Socials (or, why should the Youth Group have all the fun?)
From Pilsley Evangelical Methodist Church, Clay Cross Circuit, Sheffield District
About 18 months ago Tracey and Martin Harris realized that there was a social gap for many in their church, with people only seeing each other at a Sunday night service. For some it was difficult to attend mid week home groups because of child care or other restrictions. There were also those who appeared to be on the fringes of church, which Tracey and Martin weren't happy about. So this was why 20+ Socials were birthed - to help people feel that they belong and to get to know each other socially.
Tracey reports, "We made the decision to hold the Socials in our home, rather than at church, to give a more relaxed atmosphere. Having set the date for our first one, which was Pudding and Games Night, we then invited some non Christian friends and neighbours to come too and there began a series of successful events, often with up to 40 people. We say 20+ for our age range but those with children are welcome to bring them if they want, or have a night off from them if they prefer! All our events include food, with everyone bringing a contribution.
We have had a wide range of themed 'Nights' including Wine and Cheese, Chocolate, Western, Hawaiian, Italian, the Oscars and a Pink Party. We began with monthly events but have learned that every two to three months is more realistic, given people's diaries and the work involved.
Ironically, it's often the 'not yet' Christians who ask when the next one will be held. People have brought along family, friends and work colleagues. We hope that through these events people will come into contact with Christians and see that we can have fun, that we are inclusive and that there is something about us that is different too. And, not least, it's also improved the closeness of our relationships with our regular church family.
We wait to see what the future holds, but we have already seen some fruit with one family coming to a Café Church service, and another coming to another church function. It's all about building relationships, and if that can include some fun and food, why not? I'm confident that Jesus would approve - after all, his time on earth included socializing and sharing food with all kinds of people."
(Source: Buzz 81)
From the Belper Circuit
Linking lives and building bridges
'Linking Lives' has been set up to build bridges and develop relationships between young and older people on two estates in Belper, Derbyshire. Funded jointly by the Belper Circuit and the Nottingham and Derby District, Linking Lives, under its manager Andrea Fox, is part of the previously existing Drop Inn Project in Belper. The Drop Inn works with young people who have a variety of problems, particularly in the education system, and gives them access to qualifications and involvement in other community projects.
Linking Lives is a pioneering intergenerational project and is warmly welcomed in Belper. The young people and older people enjoy one another's company and learn from one another's skills and experience.
In Summer 2009 the groups came together to produce a film, with expert help from Film City, which aimed to bridge the generation gap and break down some of the barriers and stereotypical images the groups had of one another. 'The Image of Youth' was chosen as a theme and young people were given training in film making (with the intention of passing on this knowledge to the older people in the future) and both generations joined in the fun of creating story lines.
The climax of the film project was when both generations visited Chatsworth House and grounds to make their film - which had developed into the idea of 'role reversal' with the result that 70 and 80 years olds were dressed and made-up as 'hoodies' and the teenagers as 'older people reminiscing in a tea-shop. Everyone involved enjoyed the experience and the film 'Image of Youth - Role Reversal' was launched on October 1 - National Older People's Day, when community groups from across Belper were represented at an informal gathering at the Drop Inn. The film will now be used to promote intergenerational work, Linking Lives and in getting more people involved.
There is no doubt that 'Linking Lives' is making a difference to both young and older people of the two targeted estates in Belper. The project is developing rapidly and another film/music project is planned this year as well as a service to provide radio broadcasts (podcasts) into various local nursing homes.
It is wonderful that the Church has enabled such valuable work to be done in transforming lives and encouraging intergenerational relationships in Belper.
(Source: The Buzz 80)
From New Clipstone Methodist Church, Mansfield Circuit
Never mind the numbers, prayer turns the key
New Clipstone Methodist Church is a small congregation in an ex-mining village just outside Mansfield. Its congregation rarely reaches double figures but it wanted to develop its work with young people. In the past, the church had run various activities but, for a number of years, things had gone quiet. However, just because things were quiet, it did not mean that people weren't praying.
A couple of years ago, Alan Darlington, member of a neighbouring church, felt God was calling him to give up a day a week of his teaching job and offer it to the circuit. Alan explains, "The suggestion was taken up and since September 2008 I have been working with the church in Clipstone to develop work with the schools. The success, though, is not down to me but to the support of others and the doors that God has opened. There are three primary schools in the village. In one, I take assemblies every half term. In another I lead assemblies and lessons, sometimes helped by volunteers from the circuit. In the final school, we have started an after school club with helpers from the Methodist Church in Clipstone and one lady from a neighbouring church. We run a range of games, crafts and stories and get asked the most searching questions. A day's activity, bringing a class of children to the church to look at the life of the Wesleys, is being planned.
As yet, no children have appeared on Sundays but, in many ways, this does not matter. Contacts are being made, relationships are being built up, God's love is being shared. On paper, Clipstone is one of the least likely churches to be able to take on such an initiative. However, with support from the circuit, a vision to reach out and a willingness to offer practical support, things are starting to happen. Key to it all has been the commitment of church members to pray."
(Source: The Buzz 79)
From the Durham Circuit and the Keswick and Cockermouth Circuit
A tale of two churches, two journeys and nearly 300 children
A book called The Christmas Journey provided wonderful opportunities for two churches to invite almost 300 local school children to experience the Christmas story in an exciting, innovative and interactive way.
First stop on this journey was in Durham - 150 year 2 children and teachers came from four Durham City schools to North Road Methodist Church. The church was emptied of chairs and filled with gazebos. In the first gazebo the children learned about creation and how people had spoiled God's gift. The Journey then took the children through the gazebos and walkways from Mary's kitchen, the hillside above Bethlehem, the stable, the wise man's abode and ended in a contemporary sitting room decorated for Christmas where they discovered God's plan in sending Jesus. Anne Offler, circuit children and youth development worker, said:"The Journey was interactive with the children becoming involved. One of the favourite parts was the actual birth of Jesus told by a cow, a sheep, a camel and a donkey puppet as they recalled being disturbed that night by all the events."
Next, on to Keswick - The floods might have been reminiscent of the story of Noah, but the water didn't stop volunteers from Churches Together in Keswick and Neighbourhood, some of whom were struggling with the flooding of their own homes, from taking over 140 children on The Christmas Journey. The decision to continue with the event was made exactly a week after the deluge, despite the fact that everyone concerned felt totally unprepared.
Just four days later, Keswick Methodist Church was transformed into the setting for the journey. Over the following two days, groups of Key Stage 1 children from all the primary schools in Keswick and the surrounding area were transported back to the creation story then to Mary's kitchen to witness her encounter with the angel Gabriel, who they then met again on the hillside outside Bethlehem, before entering the stable where the animals told them the story of the birth of Jesus. Next they visited a splendid palace where they talked about the strange gifts of the wise men before arriving back in the present day where, in a living room decorated for Christmas, the children were invited to reflect on how the birth of Jesus offered a new beginning for the world.
The children also made stars to hang on their Christmas trees and took away a booklet so they could share the story told on their journey with their families. Refreshed with home-made cakes and Christmas biscuits, children, and the school staff who accompanied them, returned to school with a new perspective on the nativity plays which many were busy rehearsing. Jennet McLeod, superintendent minister of the Keswick and Cockermouth Circuit asks: "Was the decision to go ahead with the event worthwhile? Very definitely yes! The children asked some searching questions on their journey and we saw teachers with tears in their eyes as they watched their wide-eyed charges travel through time. One little lad commented 'If my sister knew what she'd missed she'd go bananas!'" More information about The Christmas Journey from: www.christmasjourney.org.uk
(Source: The Buzz 78)
From Carterknowle Methodist Church, Sheffield
'This guy called Jesus' inspires children through Peace and Hope Puppets
Peace and Hope Puppets were formed over 18 months ago by Mrs Antoinette Goldsworthy and are based at and supported by Carterknowle Methodist Church in Sheffield. Antoinette felt God's call to this ministry to reach children and young people outside the church with the Good News of Jesus. Inspired by God, Antoinette designed and made the puppets and scenery. She wrote and, along with others in the church, recorded the Bible based scripts.
The Nativity was presented in 2008 and the Easter account earlier this year. Up to 100 children with parents/guardians were present at each of these events. A puppetry workshop was held in August and was fully subscribed. In the morning the children made puppets and in the afternoon presented a puppet show using the puppets they had made earlier. It was presented by the children to about 60 invited guests. Antoinette writes: "One of the parents, (a non church goer), went out of her way to find me and thank the church for giving her boy 'such a great time'. She said that he had been non-stop talking about 'this guy called Jesus'."
(Source: The Buzz 77)
From The Filey Circuit
Filey Methodists pelted with skate wings!
In 1806 a few Methodists in Filey, Yorkshire, attempted to preach in the streets but were pelted with dried skate wings, one of the major exports of the fishing industry there. In 1823 the Primitive Methodists Society in nearby Bridlington almost gave up on Filey, knowing of its reputation for 'swearing, gambling, drunkenness, cock-fighting, fishing on Sunday and other heinous crimes'. John Oxtoby asked for a final opportunity to convert the people of Filey and thanks to him, according to Canon Cooper of Filey, the town was 'turned upside down'. The fishermen of Filey became staunch Primitive Methodists and started going out around the north of England, spreading the gospel in song, and this was the start of the Filey Fishermen's Choir.
Today, the Choir is still going strong and is based at Filey Methodist Church but visits churches and chapels of any denomination throughout the district and beyond. The Choir can take the whole service, and has its own organist. The Choir sing old hymns, many with the sea as the theme, and most are introduced by members, perhaps relating the theme to their own lives or maybe with a personal testimony.
The Choir members are no longer fishermen, although it does have some who are retired, but they consider themselves as 'fishers of men'. Because the Choir is something different, perhaps unique, it can attract people who do not worship regularly, if at all. The Choir has made several recordings which helps in furthering its ministry.
Maybe a visit from the Filey Fishermen's Choir would provide a great opportunity to invite friends and neighbours to your church.
(Source: The Buzz 76)
From The Shildon Circuit
Rolling in the aisles, with Jimmy Cricket
'An hilarious evening with Jimmy Cricket' was held at Neville Parade Methodist Church, Shildon. The evening was billed as being 'an action packed show exploding with comedy, faith and fun.' And so it was. Jimmy spent the first part of the evening sharing his comedy routine, telling stories and jokes and making the church resound with laughter. "There are enough long faces in the world, and I don't plan to become one of them!" he said.
Chris Gidney from Christians in Entertainment then spent time interviewing Jimmy, talking about his faith and finding out how God and laughter fit together in Jimmy's professional and personal life.
This was a wonderful, 'non-cringe' event to which church members were encouraged by reasonably priced tickets to bring along family, friends and neighbours who wouldn't normally attend church. A wonderful light-hearted evening that had everyone rolling in the aisles with a very special message of God's love at its heart.
(Source: Buzz 75)
From the New Room, Bristol and South Gloucestershire Circuit
Sacred Bristol - Sacred Yourtown?
The Sacred Bristol initiative has brought together some of the city's great cathedrals and churches to produce a guide which highlights these remarkable locations which have helped to make Bristol a place of significant religious importance and architectural excellence.
David Worthington, Manager at the New Room/John Wesley's Chapel, knowing that 'staycations' were likely to rise this year, encouraged the churches involved in the initiative to fund the production of the guide which enables people to better explore these wonderful buildings. The guide, which includes a map of the city, shows the locations of each site along with a brief profile, opening times and contact details.
David said: "Bristol is proud not only of its rich history and seafaring links, but also of its religious heritage. Our city has a profusion of fascinating churches and places of worship for everyone to enjoy. All the cathedrals and churches featured in the Sacred Birstol guide are free to visit and welcome worshippers and non-worshippers alike."
The Sacred Bristol guide is available at all the sites featured in it plus local tourist information offices. I
Maybe David's idea might inspire you to get together with other churches in your area to promote a local 'church trail'.
(Source: Buzz 74)
From St Paul's Methodist Church, Ceredigion Circuit
With green issues firmly in the public spotlight, we decided to take a good look at how we could slash our own carbon footprint. So on a beautifully sunny weekend in May we took a stall at our local farmers' market and held a 'Low Energy Weekend'.
Armed with bundles of leaflets, organic tea brewed up in a special energy-efficient kettle called a storm kettle, and with dozens of people taking up our offer to have their carbon footprints calculated, the day proved worthwhile. Even our local MP took the trouble to call by on the Saturday to enjoy an eco-friendly cuppa. He then joined us for an afternoon talk about alternative technology given by the head of research at the Centre for Alternative Technology.
(Source: Buzz 72)
From Millom and Haverigg Methodist Church, South Cumbria Circuit
A yellow theme was evident as we laid on a scrumptious afternoon tea to raise cash for the Marie Curie Cancer Care Great Daffodil Appeal. Inspired by the golden hue of the spring flower, we feasted on tasty butterfly cakes topped with gooey yellow icing and an array of yellow-coloured sandwiches, including sticky lemon curd, tangy cheese and squidgy egg.
Around 50 people, from young children to pensioners, enjoyed the afternoon which was the idea of one of our members who had sadly lost relatives to cancer. And the climax of the successful event was a raffle with prizes such as Terry's All Gold, a yellow teddy bear and old favourite Ferro Rocher up for grabs. An impressive £300 was raised - a fantastic contribution towards the appeal's £5million target.
Our organist and Girls' Brigade Lieutenant, Sue Giles said, "It was our best single event ever!"
(Source: Buzz 71)
From The Sanctuary Westminster, Methodist Central Hall, London
There are a multitude of ways to spread God's word but, at The Sanctuary Westminster, we like to do it in a manner that reaches young people. So what better means than through the universal language of music?
Jonathan Green, the founding pastor of our friendly urban Christian community for young adults in the heart of London, has created a brand new website featuring his self-penned songs.
Safe House Sounds gives you the opportunity to download the musical creations of the self-confessed 'songwriter trapped in a church planter's body'. Accompanying song sheets are also available to use in your church.
The Sanctuary offers a range of activities from craft sessions to dance groups to worship events.
(Source Buzz 70)
From St Andrew's Methodist Church, Worcester
An internationally-renowned organist brought music to the ears of our members when he gave a stunning performance of organ music in January.
Gordon Stewart, who has played for audiences all over the world from South Africa to the USA, thrilled the assembled crowd with everything from baroque to Bach.
The nimble-fingered musician also amused spectators with stories and anecdotes about his music and life experiences. Our minister, Anne Smith said, "It's always a delight to welcome Gordon Stewart to St Andrew's."
Proceeds from the event were donated to church funds.
(Source Buzz 69)
From Friendship Cafe, Gloucestershire Methodist Circuit, Gloucester
An atmosphere of peace and harmony abounded at the start of the New Year as The Friendship Cafe in Gloucester hosted an all-faiths 'bring and share supper' to remember all those involved in the Gaza conflict.
Bringing together Christians, Jews and Muslims, the evening was a resounding success with readings from the Qu'ran, messages of peace from Jerusalem and the lighting of candles in commemoration of both Israelis and Palestinians. Calls were made for both sides to end the fighting.
Amid a backdrop of poignant images and pictures of a recent trip to Israel and Palestine, speakers, including an imam and a vicar, regaled the audience with stories of their spiritually-charged journey. They spoke movingly about the warmth and friendship of the people, despite the hardship and poverty they face.
(Source: Buzz 68)
From Burton Road Methodist Church, Lincoln
Families at the Burton Road Methodist Church in Lincoln were treated to a thrilling evening last month as they watched Lewis Hamilton's historic Formula 1 victory in Brazil on a giant screen in the church hall.
A mixture of tension and delight, along with some badly chewed nails, accompanied the clinching of the championship title by the youngest world champion in Formula 1's history.
"The final lap was the most nerve-racking", said Mark Thompson from the church, adding: "The atmosphere was very tense in the final laps and even tenser on the last lap, but there was great relief and joy when Lewis clinched the title."
Buoyed by the success of this event, and a previous showing of the FA Cup final, we are thinking of turning our attentions to matters musical with a Mamma Mia charity sing-along pencilled in for the new year. So watch this space!
(Source: Buzz 67)
From St Andrew's Methodist Church, Worcester
A warm welcome, a cup of tea and some great music were on offer to all newcomers to our evening 'Praise Service' to mark Back2Church Sunday. An assortment of gifted musicians accompanied the service which was part of a nationwide ecumenical initiative to encourage people who have got out of the habit of coming to church to return to 'Mother Church'.
The St Andrew's Singers and an enthusiastic congregation created a spirited and tuneful fiesta by singing a selection of popular modern praise songs. We held an all-age worship Harvest Festival in the morning service and the generous congregation raided their kitchen cupboards for edible goodies in aid of a great cause - the Maggs Day Centre for the homeless.
(Source: Buzz 66)
From Northmoor Road Methodist Church, Longsight, Manchester
Our church is surrounded by streets named after composers - Elgar, Tallis, Purcell - 20 of them in total. Over the summer our contemporary spirituality group "Core", who are dedicated to serving local people, set up three concerts celebrating this musical heritage. The local authority gave us a grant to run the festival and we hired three professional groups of musicians to lead the musical events.
Over 230 people came to the concerts which gave us chance to talk to them (over a cream tea) about all the other things that go on in the church. The festival was such a success that we even made the local TV news show and two radio stations. Local people have told us how much they loved it and are asking us to do it again next year.
(Source: Buzz 65)
From Clydach, Swansea and Gower Circuit, Wales Synod
Within CYTUN (Churches Together) in Clydach we have recently formed a group called 'Croeso' (Welcome) which aims to connect Church and community in new ways - going beyond our church walls.
We began by holding more of our meetings in local community centres, growing contacts between Church members and community groups, and we are now in conversation with the local junior school about supporting their proposed wildlife garden.
In the autumn we hope to run a Christianity Explored course and hold monthly 'drop-ins' at one of the more central chapels, selling fair trade goods and offering a 'listening post' to all who attend.
(Source: Buzz 64)
From Burton Road Methodist Church, Lincoln
Burton Road Methodist Church held a Star Wars weekend over the bank holiday, showing all six Star Wars films using a full Dolby Digital Surround Sound system and a large screen to give the full cinematic experience! The aim was to give the youth of the church something to offer to their friends (using their own ideas) and it worked fantastically well, with both young people and families attending the event.
We also had a tuck shop, a cooked tea, a faith lunch and a Star Wars-themed all age worship, led by Mr Simon Pillinger on his trial service. A clip of the Death Star being blown up (shown in the service) had the whole church shaking! For our next community outreach event we are planning a free BBQ and the showing of the FA Cup final on the big screen.
(Source: Buzz 63)
From Sheffield South Circuit
Inspired by one of our minister's experiences in Guatemala last year, we organised a walk around the 11 churches of our circuit. Outside each church was an 'alfombra' - a picture made of flowers, sand, seeds or chalk - which congregation members had made that morning. A short act of worship took place when the walkers arrived at each church.
Three people and a dog walked the full route (which took 11 hours) and others joined in for smaller sections. Some used the occasion for outreach by giving out hot cross buns and details of what Good Friday is all about, one church invited children to help create an Easter garden and others opened their sanctuaries for prayer and meditation.
Thank you to Revd Beverley Barclay for introducing us to alfombras and we pray that she is given the strength to complete her 500 mile pilgrimage to walk the Way of St James to Santiago de Compestela in Spain.
(Source: Buzz 62)
From New Longton Methodist Church, South Ribble Circuit
Inspired by an idea from our Texan minister, Revd Bob Monk, we erected three life-sized crosses outside our church one Easter and, on Easter Sunday, decorated the centre cross with flowers - a popular American tradition. The final effect was quite impressive and after receiving much encouragement from the local community, the display has been repeated each year since.
This inspired us to consider other ideas, so for Christmas, we set up life-sized plywood nativity figures, painted black with minimum detail, standing on a 10-foot-wide white background. The scene was floodlit at night with the story beginning at Advent and changing all the way through to Epiphany. A board described each scene for passers-by. One of the many positive comments we received was, "I wish we could have this at our church!"
(Source: Buzz 61)
From Towers School, Ashford, Kent
The aim of the Ashford Worship Experience (AWE) is to bring worship out of the church and into the community. It's a way of showing young people, who may never consider attending a Sunday morning church service, just how "rock 'n' roll" God can be. We have a lot of lively praise songs with a band, a short talk aimed at young people, free refreshments and a Fair Trade tuck shop. Our last event at Towers School in October was a resounding success and our next is scheduled for January 25.
(Source: Buzz 58)
From Great Glen Methodist Church, Leicestershire
For the second year running we have held a Saturday barbeque at the front of our church, right on the T-junction in our busy village, offering free hot dogs and burgers to anyone who wants to stop and chat. It's one of our ways of reaching folk in the village who might not want to brave an entry into the church itself. We walked the streets nearby persuading people to stop off for a free bite, drink and a chat. Over 100 burgers and hot dogs were served up in two hours of perfect bank holiday sunshine (how often can you say that in England?)
(Source: Buzz 57)
From St John's Church, Southborough, Tunbridge Wells
This year's Tour de France came right through Southborough, past our church. Although we were prevented from having our usual Sunday morning service because the road was completely closed, a group of us gathered on the lawn outside the church to provide free drinks and give out an information pack, which we called 'The Bagazine', which contained a lollipop, children's activity sheets and leaflets about our own church and Methodism in general. Members wandered up and down the road giving out almost 200 of these packs and engaging in conversation with spectators. From our usual congregation of less than 50, on this occasion, our potential increased to thousands!
(Source: Buzz 56)
From Bliston Methodist Church, West Midlands
Our Sunday school was one of the oldest in the country, having been founded in 1797, but in 2004 its future looked bleak as numbers fell. We decided that we needed something new for the twenty first century, so we closed the Sunday school and formed "Spirit Blazers" which was half an hour longer than before, had a tuck shop and asked the children to pay subs. It has been a great success, with over 50 new children attending over the last two years.
(Source: Buzz 55)
From Knutsford, Cheshire
20 years ago Manchester moved thousands of inner-city dwellers to two new estates at Knutsford. We (Methodists and others) opened a shop - called 'The Welcome'. It began with second-hand clothes and a drop-in, but has become much more. It's recently expanded as a church plant, with courses for basic skills in conjunction with Macclesfield College. We meet 20 - 25% of the population on a weekly basis. With circuit support there's a lay worker, cook and youth worker.
(Source: Buzz 54)
From Mapperley, Nottingham
We've built on our success at Easter when over 500 school children shared our worship. They were invited again in December. The church was full, with standing room only in the aisles. The team told the Christmas story by interactive games, readings and carols but the Mapperley Muppets stole the show. Dressed for the nativity, their performance was inspired! We've shared the joy of Christmas with over 600 children. Mapperley's on the map!
(Source: Buzz 52)
From Bolton Circuit
We've just begun an imaginative process as the Spirit leads us in new ways. We've released one of our ministers for at least half of his time to have the freedom to pioneer our new focus on Fresh Expressions. He will work with a Bible Society publicity campaign in Bolton in the new year, and start to build a team using lay people from many of our churches. He will leave next year, having laid the foundations for his successor, who we are seeking through the current stationing process, to fully establish this work.
(Source: Buzz 51)
From Saltash circuit
We've repeated the walk around the Circuit we first did last year. Over a period of 5 days we linked together the various Chapels by visiting each one and holding a short service and a time of fellowship with those that could attend from each congregation. We talked with people along the road. We may never know the outcome of passing the time of day with strangers, but those taking part it was about relaxing in God's and other people's company. We recommend it: it uplifts the spirit, if not the feet!
(Source: Buzz 50)
Methodists were among around 300 Christians who took part in The Big Idea - a week of fun. The aim was simple - to bring unconditional blessing to the town: we held 2 open-air services, 3 community fun-day events, a youth event, a visit from comedian Syd Little and ten projects, including tidying-up unsightly areas, painting murals, building a new school path and gardening at the Community Hospital. The Big Idea was well received: the public were especially amazed that all the activities, and even the refreshments, were free!
(Source: Buzz 49)
From Upper Calder circuit, West Yorkshire
We have several chapels close to the Pennine Way, which attracts many walkers, so we decided to hold a Walkers' Weekend. The idea is to combine 10-minute opportunities for reflection with walks and refreshments, taking in Lumbutts, three other chapels and Stoodley Pike. It's an opportunity for outreach, and people are invited to come for the whole day out, or for just a few minutes.
(Source: Buzz 48)
From North Herts circuit
We realised people often have worries about sharing their faith. We've been using a course prepared by the Anglican Church Pastoral Aid Society called 'Lost for Words.' 30 people attended the first course, and we've done another since. It's been very good and we plan to take it around the circuit. The content encourages us to think about those to whom we communicate, to see ourselves as 'signposts' for others' journeys and to talk about our own journeys, finding opportunities to share our faith at home, work and play.
(Source: Buzz 47)
With help from the Bishop, we organised a stall at the local Body Mind and Spirit fair, offering healing prayers for anyone who came. We worked hard to design and decorate the stall, and staffed it, 3 at a time, for 2 days. We had a caravan for privacy if needed, and throughout we felt empowered by the Holy Spirit! At times there was a queue of people waiting to be prayed for. We'll be back at the next fair. Could be done at boot sales too?
(Source: Buzz 46)
From Knightthorpe, Loughborough
We're a small (47) mainly elderly congregation but we have good facilities for youth and outreach. There's a housing need area locally. We've managed to establish links with the community association. There's now a weekly community meeting at the chapel and by linking with another church with youth resources we shall shortly be hosting a 'kids club' which will not only offer activities for the younger members but coffee and chat for their parents. 4 young people were recently baptised, directly from these initiatives.
(Source: Buzz 46)
From Clitheroe circuit
We've begun a Circuit Ministry to Car Boot Sales in the Ribble Valley. Each Sunday until September a team will go to each of the valley's 4 car boot sales in turn. They have a pitch, offering music, dance, drama, food, face-painting etc, with conversation and information about the Christian Gospel. A new way of being Church - and those involved are undertaking a series of three training sessions led by the District Evangelism Enabler. It's going very well.
(Source: Buzz 45)
From South Petherton and Crewkerne circuit, Somerset
We're a small country circuit. We were aware of the difficulty of inviting people to specific Christian activities. We devised, initially in one of our churches, what might be called a pre-Alpha course. We called it 'Stepping Stones - from coffee morning to Sunday morning.' The idea was to develop the relationships between worshippers and other contacts so that when invitations were given to special services or an Alpha supper, the answer was more likely to be 'Yes'. It worked and it's on CD if anyone wants it.
(Source: Buzz 43)
From Kingston upon Thames circuit, London SW
27 people from 3 of our churches got together for a day's workshop on poster-making. We had fun, learned a lot, and each of us produced a poster by the end of the day. We now have a good supply of posters - which people have noticed. One church has a group planning for forward events. We think plenty of other circuits / churches would benefit from similar initiatives. The day was led by Yvonne Coppock.
(Source: Buzz 42)
From Biddulph, Staffordshire
We had lots of baptisms during 2005, but not much contact with them, so we took an advent calendar and a personal invitation to each family and invited them, plus our mother-and-toddler group, to a special service on Christmas Eve. The local youth orchestra (which rehearses here) played, and we set out 80 chairs around the crib. But we were delighted when the place was packed to the doors, with every chair in use. Now we'll have to find more ways of helping them feel part of our church community.
(Source: Buzz 41)
From Haughton, Darlington
We're a small congregation but by sharing together with other local churches we've been part of a 3-month series of mission activities. We organised a weekend where local groups displayed their talents. We hired the local Working Men's Club for 'An evening with Syd Little.' (He was great!) Other activities included a Circus Extravaganza Holiday club, a visit from Roly the Clown, a Quiz Night, a Youth Night with Christian Bands and Question Time with local dignitaries, including local MP Alan Milburn, on the panel.
(Source: Buzz 40 )
We (Portsmouth Christians in Business) wanted to do something for the local churches together. We've built a web portal - strapline 'Many congregations, one Church' - which carries information about from 14 denominations and 85 churches. The site links to individual websites, and provides a valuable resource for visitors to the city or those moving in. There's a list of Christian businesses, and an online bookshop which with some ads brings in the cost of the site.
(Source: Buzz 39)
From Darwen, Lancashire
I had an idea. Why not put up crosses in highly visible places near the town? I prayed about it. A local farmer gave permission for three crosses on his land, where they'd be visible from the golf course and the motorway. A neighbour lent me the tools, a business-woman lent me a truck to get the crosses to the site, and local Christians helped with the hard work. They'll stay in place until after Easter. We've recently added another cross near a main road into the town.
(Source: Buzz 38)
From Norwich cathedral
We borrowed some of the Methodist collection of modern art, and displayed it in the cathedral. We trained up a number of stewards to help show people around and to engage in conversation. We publicised the exhibition widely through the churches, and via local radio and newspapers. It was a great success, and we discovered that speaking about faith was much easier with a painting as a focus than it seems to be on a doorstep or in the street.
(Source: Buzz 38)
From Ludwick Way, Welwyn Garden City
We've started a course (in September) which involves 16 people and includes several who aren't regular worshippers. It's called 'Living with Questions', and will have a total of 13 sessions. The series was devised mainly by Methodists in the States, with material on DVD and the Web. It's designed to take us beyond the traditions, creeds, doctrines and theologies of 'traditional' Christianity. We want to use it to promote Christian exploration and understanding of our faith for contemporary living.
(Source: Buzz 37)
From Saltash circuit, Cornwall
One of our members planned a walk round the circuit's 11 churches during the holiday season, with a brief stop for an act of worship at every one. In total, the 5-day walk was 50 miles. At times there were only 2 walkers, but about 40 of us managed at least some of it! 500 copies of 'The Son' were given out as we travelled. Ages ranged from 12 to 90+, and the smaller chapels were certainly encouraged. We met people on the road and explained it was 'a walk of faith'. (Slide show available in Devon/Cornwall)
(Source: Buzz 36)
From Bishops Cleeve, Gloucestershire
The village has grown and whole-community events are rare. We (the Local Ecumenical Partnership) decided to contribute to the Street Carnival which took over the main street for a day last month. 2 clergy abseiled down the church tower and put up a banner for Make Poverty History. We had stalls, including a Fairtrade one giving away goodies, and a prayer station. We gave out 250 'God Cares' badges. We felt able to say it with confidence: the church was demonstrating it!
(Source: Buzz 35)
From Wesley College, Bristol
We've started offering evening meals and overnight accommodation to the many thousands of people who pass within 2 miles of our doors on their way to the West Country on the M5. This welcome is available to anyone, and people seem pleased to visit us. It also means we can meet Methodists who've never been able to visit or see the inside of a theological college, and the cost is - we think! - very reasonable.
(Source: Buzz 34)
From Amble, Northumberland
Four years ago we began, with other local Christians, to run a Loaves and Fishes event at the end of June. We sing in the main street, handing out invitations to lunch, when we offer free hot dogs, tea, coffee, soft drinks and ices in the Town Square. This year we'll also provide a variety of entertainment, including music, badge making, face painting, 'smile' balloons, story telling, a mini quiz and puppets. And on the Sunday we'll serve cream teas on the beach. Last year we served 900 people!
(Source: Buzz 33)
From Timsbury, Bath
Three members of our small village church decided to raise money to provide good quality Children's Bibles free to our local primary school. We've now been able to supply 70,000 children in over 350 schools nationwide. Years 1-5 have a well-illustrated story Bible: year 6 have the Rainbow Good News. We also make sure there can be annual replenishments. Headteachers and R.E. teachers are thrilled. We've been given resources to provide all the children in a further 50 schools this year.
(Source: Buzz 32)
From Esh Winning, Durham
We held a short course on evangelism among retired people, which challenged the assumption that elderly people just need 'looking after'. Of course many lead outgoing, active lives, and we thought about encouraging them to spend time thinking about spiritual matters, and especially about the claims of Jesus. There are vast numbers of elderly people in our communities. If they respond, we believe they could revitalise our churches and make us more outgoing.
(Source: Buzz 31)
From Darwen, Lancashire
Since last summer, we've had a stall in the local market - unattended, but covered in a range of posters and leaflets, changed and replenished regularly: it's all free. Just before Christmas the whole lot, worth £120, disappeared one Saturday. We suspected the worst! But we discovered from market staff that 2 boys had worked all day handing out the leaflets to shoppers and telling them God had a message for them. We still don't know who the 11-year-olds were, but how terrific!
(Source: Buzz 30)
From Stratford and Evesham circuit
We started an after-school club called JAM (Jesus and Me) at a local school. It's grown from 6 children to 14, with more waiting: we have a team of helpers, including some who aren't members of the church. From this small beginning, we've held a demonstration baptism (with doll!) for the whole school plus teachers and families, and the school has made a 6-foot-high illuminated model of the church, which has appeared in the local paper.
(Source: Buzz 29)
From Clydach, Swansea
We're a small, mostly 'senior' congregation. We worship in the hall of a Welsh Independent Church. A couple of years ago we were offered a free web-page on a village site. Some older members were doubtful about the value of it, but we went ahead - the only local church to do so. Two younger couples have found us through the web-page, much to our delight. We've celebrated the wedding and confirmation of one couple, and we're looking forward to the wedding of the second, who may also become members. You can find us at www.clydachmethodists.co.uk
(Source: Buzz 28)
From Highway, Ewloe, North Wales
Caféchurch for us means dance, ribbons, prayer drums, artworks, foot-washing, video, with spotlights and candles illuminating a darkened space, monthly on a Wednesday. We start at 6.30 with prayers and set-up, continue with soup and rolls, then have what we call our 'wondertime' of praise and worship. It's for people who want to worship or want to explore the journey of faith. 64 attended our first session.
(Source: Buzz 27)
From Summercourt, near Newquay, Cornwall
We (9 members) wanted to make our chapel more welcoming, so we've made it more directly accessible by re-shaping the porch - it improves disabled access too. There are 171 houses in the village, and we visited them all, with an invitation to have a look, and to come to our re-opening celebrations and Easter services. We were welcomed at every house. There were 50 present on Palm Sunday and more on Easter Day, two children have returned to Sunday School, and the new Friendship Club attracted 12 people, of whom 5 have not been worshippers. 'To say we're pleased is an understatement!'
From the Chaplaincy, Trent University, Nottingham
Our award-winning student newspaper ÔPlatform' recently published an article in which 2 students described unpleasant sexual experiences that had left them feeling used. As a Christian group, we didn't want to be ÔDisgusted of Tunbridge Wells' but to say that most students wanted to develop their sexuality within meaningful relationships. After prayerful thought, we wrote an article for the following week's issue of Platform. The response has been very positive. One student said, "I wouldn't have bothered responding to the article myself, but I'm really glad someone responded suggesting a more Christian view of sexuality."
Gilbraltar is headline news at the moment. 5 years ago Methodists here became part of the London S.W. District. The church has been growing: 6 young people have become members, and the congregation has been swelled by people coming to Gib to work and live. The Rev. Wilf Pearce says: 'Our membership is up by 26 in the last year or so, and attendances are being maintained: it's very encouraging.' Gibraltar's Methodists, like most of the population, remain firm in their desire to be British.
From Bagram air base, Afghanistan
We (45 Commando Group) have been part of Operation Jacana. Facing the possibility of imminent death or injury as they were flown into the mountains revealed a natural faith in God in many Commandos. Sunday communion services there have been attended by 20 to 40 of the Company of 90. On 30th June, back at base and soon to return to the UK, two men were baptised by total immersion in a 5 X 4' container provided by the Royal Engineers, 'so you can give them a good dunking!'
From Paignton (www.palaceavenue-methodist.org.uk )
We've got a counter on our site, which has lots of links to organisations connected with our church. Nearly 30,000 visited the site in the past year - over 3,000 in June, or 4 every hour and from Cheltenham (www.bethesda-church.org.uk ). We've just got our website up and running, and projected it on screen to the congregation the day it went Ôlive'. The site is hosted by a Christian set-up, at www.milestonenet.co.uk , and it's also on the excellent www.findachurch.co.uk .
Editor's note: Methodist Church House keeps a list of church websites at www.methodist.org.uk/links . Make sure yours is there! (Tips too on starting a website.)
From Broad Oak, North Dorset circuit
We have a population of about 130 and a tiny wayside chapel. Four years ago it was near to being closed, after a dismal quinquennial inspection. A couple who lived here but worshipped elsewhere felt it could grow again. Volunteer labour put the place straight. A monthly service began, with personal invitations around the village. Coffee mornings raised some money, and a donation allowed the front to be painted. The congregation has grown to 18 - with more at Christmas! The chapel's open if you're passing.
From Launceston, Cornwall
We're a group of young people who wanted to 'create a fun experience where people encounter the power of Christ' - that's our mission statement! The important thing is that we can invite friends, because it's cringe-free and ecumenical. We've been running these ÔEPIC' evenings (in Launceston Football Club) for a year now, attended by 50 to 100 people, with a third of these Ôcringe-free friends'. We use videos, on-screen readings with music, and graffiti boards for prayers - for world, friends, or self. The whole thing's in a typical disco, with £2 entry, but there's a candle-lit quiet room too!
From Billericay, Essex
It's taken ten long years, but we're finally opening a Christian Centre in the Queen's Park area of the town. The vision was there. We wanted to start with a temporary building, but instead the Council offered us some land. We've had bad times, emotional downs, but now we're nearly up and running, with a focus on a coffee drop-in where we hope to Ôgossip the gospel'. We're looking for ideas for opening ceremonies!
From Southwell, Nottinghamshire
We wanted to raise our profile, and let locals know what happens in our church, so we had an Open Day. Every group in the Church had a display. Local charities were also invited to have a stall. There was a big splash in the local press. Some who visited have since returned to various activities. Just as important, we had the whole church there, joining in and being reminded of everything that does happen in our church. We ended by offering the life and work of the church to God in an act of worship.
From Baildon, West Yorkshire
We run Wesley's CafŽ, well-used for coffee, snacks and lunches by office workers, older people, young parents and toddlers. The cafŽ, with 2 paid staff and lots of volunteers, fills an area between our church and hall. We saw an opportunity to use our menu holders to welcome customers, give them our service times and so on. A local preacher prepared versions of Bible and other Christian stories, with Ôepisodes' on different tables, and we've done a series on Women of the Bible.
From Fairford Leys, Aylesbury, Bucks
We're opening (this March) our new ecumenical church. The aim we've had throughout is 'making the gospel relevant to life today'. But alongside hi-tech equipment for worship, including video projection, the new centre has a cloister, providing a calm entrance to the church, with trees and shrubs, and a space for quiet reflection and prayer - an evangelistic gift to those who live today's fast lifestyle.
From Witney, Oxfordshire
ÔSee-Saw' is the title we've given our new alternative Sunday afternoon session, aiming to reach as wide a group as possible - shoppers, people finishing work in the shops, families with tea-time to spare. We meet at 4pm to prepare a theme, then the session runs from 4.30 - 5.30pm. Personal invitation and an internet site (www.see-saw.net ) bring together a room full of people. Community, love, sincerity and fun are what we're aiming for, to help people reconnect with the Christian faith.
From Touchstone, Bradford
In this city we, Muslims and Christians in more or less equal numbers, walked together for peace in January. It's said locally that when someone here sneezes, someone in Pakistan says ÔBless you': that's how fast news travels. We've heard that the joint march made considerable impact in Pakistan, and may have stopped some of the violence against Christians there. During the Iraq conflict, we've had more meetings and prayer vigils, with Muslims firmly saying ÔAmin' to our carefully-prepared prayers for peace.
From Beckminster, Wolverhampton
We set out to refurbish the premises, but realised we needed to refurbish the life of the church as well. With a note in our magazine and word-of-mouth, we started Take-a-break, an afternoon of art, crafts and (hugely popular) indoor bowls. It's moving from 2pm to 1pm to help young parents. Most of the 25-30 who attend aren't Methodists, but 2 have now started worshipping here.
From Notting Hill, London.
In an area where most residents are sufficiently well-off to have internet access at home and at work, but where few are traditional church-goers, we've started a website which encourages people to give some thought each day to their spiritual and personal awareness. The site, www.pause-for-thought.com is advertised where local people meet, and through the web. It offers a new, usually topical, thought for each working day. Users can make it their homepage.