More worship stories

Text4Prayer
From: Padgate Methodist Church, Sankey Valley Circuit

Over the past few months a church in Warrington has been trialling a new initiative where people can submit prayer requests by text.

"The idea came about during a prayer walk in the area," Deacon Helen Coleman, the originator of the concept, said.

"We asked God to show us new ways to connect with the local community that would be both relevant and accessible. And from there, we developed the concept for Text4Prayer."

Text4Prayer works through members of the public texting prayer requests to a mobile phone number, which is solely dedicated for this purpose. The texts are then picked up by one of a number of trained responders, who share the requests with others for prayer.

The following Sunday, all Text4Prayer prayers are included in the church's intercessions.

Helen continued: "We have had to navigate a number of challenges along the way, including the need for confidentiality and to have safeguarding in place, signposting to other agencies when appropriate.

"While it's not being used on a daily basis, the prayer requests we have received have been varied, from an infant who was very ill (but has since gained full health), to a dog and her puppies that were due to be born."

A sign with advertising the service is displayed outside the church and the local community have been very receptive.

Source: Buzz 170 
Photo: Members of Padgate Methodist Church alongside the Revd Loraine N Mellor, President of the Methodist Conference

Get Vocal
From: Across the UK

OneSound is one of the UK's leading Christian youth ensembles. Formed of singers and instrumentalists aged 16-25 from all over the UK, OneSound meets 3-5 times a year for residential weekends, performing in concerts and leading worship in a range of venues across the UK. All to enable talented young musicians to use their God-given gifts to strengthen their own faith and inspire the wider church & community.

Formed in 1974 as the MAYC Orchestra & Singers, OneSound has a proud heritage recording with artists such as Matt Redman, and performing in some of the UK's most prestigious venues. The ensemble is open to young people from all denominations and to those exploring their faith.

From 30 September - 14 October OneSound will be running a series of taster singing workshops across the country for young adults.

Martin Sykes, Chair of OneSound, said: "Over the two-hour Get Vocal sessions, young people will be able to experience what OneSound is, how we work, have a bite to eat, and be able explore developing their talents in a Christian context."

For more information about OneSound and the upcoming events, please visit their website.

Source: Buzz 169 

Worship on Wheels
From: Nailsea Methodist Church, Bristol 

A church in Bristol held a Worship on Wheels service last month, specifically welcoming and celebrating scooter and wheelchair users. 

Following the great success of a similar event last year, Nailsea Methodist Church held a café-style church service where scooter and wheelchair users could bring their wheels to the tables and be fully involved in the worship.

The congregation heard from Steve Ledbrook - a volunteer, fundraiser and campaigner who also has Becker Muscular Dystrophy - and reflected on a message of inclusion and liberation from the minister, the Revd Deborah Mallet.

Source: Buzz 168 

Conference worship online
From: Birmingham and across the world

Hundreds of people in Birmingham, across the Connexion and around the world via the live stream joined together in worship on Sunday 25 June for the Reception into Full Connexion and Conference Worship service. 

As well as singing a number of hymns and an engaging sermon from the newly inducted President of the Conference the Revd Loraine N Mellor, the Conference welcomed new presbyters and deacons into Full Connexion by standing vote and warm applause. 

Welcoming the newly-ordained presbyters and deacons, Jill Baker, Vice-President of the Conference, said: "You all are a living breathing sign of hope for the Methodist Church in Britain and the kingdom of God. You have the love, prayers and support of all here… Congratulations!" 

Following the service, Ordination Services were held across the West Midlands.

You can watch the service again online here until the end of July.

Source:
 Buzz 167  

Abaana New Life Choir
From: Penrith Methodist Church, Cumbria

Penrith Methodist Church was packed with members from across the Circuit and other churches in the town at a special Churches Together in Penrith ecumenical event featuring the Abaana New Life children's choir from Uganda.

The youngsters, aged from 7 to 13, delighted and inspired the congregation as they sang and danced to a variety of worship songs, some English and some Ugandan.

The children and their chaperones were weekend guests of members of Penrith Methodist Church, and enjoyed a lake cruise on Ullswater before also joining in the town's annual May Day carnival.

Source: Buzz 166  

A very special wedding
From: Southport Hospital Chaplaincy, Merseyside

Last month, Songs of Praise aired a special feature following the Revd Martin Abrams in his role as hospital chaplain to Southport Hospital, capturing a touching service of love amidst hardship. 

Frank Heath, 72, and Kate Hart, 69, had been planning a small wedding at the hospital, which quickly became a TV event when they agreed to let the BBC feature their special day.

Martin said: "The service was a wonderful, happy day for everyone concerned. It is very unusual for patients to marry while they're in hospital. It was just luck that Songs of Praise happened to be here last week.

"I want to thank Kate and Frank for allowing us to share their wedding day as well as staff from across the Trust who pulled out the stops to make it so very special for them. They are truly a lovely and remarkable couple."

Writing on Twitter, Aled Jones added: "Had the most incredible humbling day @SONHStrust - wonderful staff and patients and an honour to spend time with Kate and Frank - xx."

Adapted from Southport and Ormskirk Hospital NHS Trust Media Release
Source: Buzz 165 

Day of Praise
From: Birmingham Methodist Circuit

Young people from across the Birmingham Methodist Circuit gathered together last month for a day of praise, prayer and pizza.

The church at Carrs Lane in Birmingham city centre was the venue for an afternoon of seminars and workshops designed for young leaders from across the Circuit, followed by an evening of praise and dance.

The keynote speaker of the day, the Methodist Youth President Tim Annan, gave a message of youth engagement in a modern era that was complemented by personal testimonies of God's healing and answered prayer from the Youth for Christ dance team. Games and a quiz were then followed by worship, led by local worship leaders from churches across the Circuit.

One of the organisers from the event said: "It was lovely to see young people of all ages and from all backgrounds join together from across the city to celebrate together and to hear directly from our Youth President.

"Young people have a vital role to play and the young leaders who volunteered to help set-up and run the day did a super job, giving everyone a warm welcome and assisting with catering and clearing away."

Source: Buzz 164

Come and Sing
From: Whitchurch Methodist Church, Cardiff

Around one hundred singers gathered for a 'Come and Sing' event held in Wales this month.

Comprised of vocalists from all over South Wales and the South West of England, the choir partook in renditions of a number of classic pieces including the Faure Requiem in a mammoth five hour performance.

Admirably led by Mr Ben Pinnow and accompanied by Mr Elfyn Jones on the organ, the event raised a substantial profit, which went toward repairs for the church roof.

(Source: Buzz 163)       

Covenanted Partnership
From: St Andrew's Psalter Lane Church, Sheffield

In October 2016, around 150 people gathered at a church in Sheffield to celebrate the signing of the 'Sheffield City Covenanted Partnership in an Extended Area' between the area's Methodist and Anglican Churches in the City.

The Right Revd Peter Burroughs, acting Bishop of Sheffield, and the Revd Gill Newton, Chair of Sheffield Methodist District, in the presence of witnesses from Sheffield's religious and civic communities, were joined by others to sign the historic agreement.

Co-superintendent minister, the Revd Philip Borkett said: "While the celebration marks a new stage in the relationship between Anglican and Methodist communities in Sheffield. The document is far from the end of the process, with the agreement just being one step in the developing and ongoing relationship.

"We were pleased to have the support of our URC friends, whose involvement signifies the intention that the partnership should go beyond just the Methodist and Anglican Churches."

Philip went on: "The covenant is already being worked out across the city as deans and co-superintendents meet regularly; as opportunities for shared mission and ministry are explored; as joint plans are drawn up that aim to benefit communities; and, above all, as our relationships are kindled, friendships formed, food eaten and laughter shared."

The document states that the emphasis of the partnership should be a shared vision and common purpose, rooted in a common life.

(Source: Buzz 162 - New Year Bumper Special)      

Celebrating God's Kingdom
From: Sutton Park Circuit, Birmingham District

In September 2016, a Circuit in the Birmingham District held a radical Circuit Service, of the likes never done before…

Hosting more than 500 people, the sports hall of a local Catholic secondary school in Sutton Coldfield was filled to the brim for their Circuit Service on the theme of 'Living and Growing God's Kingdom'. But even before the even before the event, the Circuit were working connexionally together.

To help publicise the event the, Revd Stephen Willey offered to cycle around each church in the Circuit one Sunday afternoon. 

But the idea quickly grew wheels of its own and became a massive fundraising event for the Methodist Church's Refugee Project, which saw a total of 14 cyclists share all or part of the 45 mile journey - raising a whopping £4,030 for the Methodist Church World Mission Fund working on the ground in Europe with refugees.

The service itself was a great success, with new signs of unity and hope as all 13 circuit churches from Birmingham's inner city to the Warwickshire countryside presented an uplifting vision of hope and mission for the future of the Circuit.

(Source: Buzz 162 - New Year Bumper Special)       

Celebrating Rural Ministry
From: North Yorkshire

A group of more than 50 Christians in North Yorkshire celebrated rural ministry in the countryside through a special prayer-garden tour.

Participants visited three specially set-up gardens: 'The Garden of Creation', 'The Garden of Gethsemane' and 'The Garden of Resurrection', each with their own themed decorations, readings and reflections.

The Revd Sue Pegg, who was part of the group, said: "We decorated a creation tree, lit candles in the Garden of Gethsemane, and had our own Easter 'tomb' with children dressed as angels in the Resurrection Garden. 

"The sun shone, a music group played, walkers stopped to join in and even some people in their houses popped out to see what was going on."

(Source: Buzz 162 - New Year Bumper Special)      

Puppets in the Pulpit
From: Marlow Methodist Church, Buckinghamshire

A church in Buckinghamshire took the bold decision to try something fresh with its Sunday Morning services and introduced puppets into the pulpit as the start of a new series of services.

Marlow Methodist Church introduced a monthly service titled 'freespirit'. Through this new service series, the church hopes to explore new approaches to worship through modern music, interaction, thought-provoking sermons and puppets!

Marlow minister, the Revd Nick Thompson, explained the decision, saying: "Families and young people want to worship God, but some have been put off by what they see as old, out of date, worship.

"We want to welcome people who may have been put off by old fashioned services in the past and provide a welcoming space for newcomers who would like to explore the Christian faith for the first time."  

To mark the launch of the 'freespirit' series, 50 white helium balloons were let off in front of the 100 year old church with labels attached to them, giving blessings to all who receive them. The service itself was led by a Burnham-based puppeteer group, 'Puppets 4 all'.

Nick added: "It was great to see older people support the event in huge numbers too, so that we had the biggest turn out to a service for a long time with an increase of 51% attendance from an average of 60 people to 96!"

(Source: Buzz 162 - New Year Bumper Special)     

King's Club
From: Wensleydale

The Southend and Leigh Circuit 'Worship Academy' ended their academic year with a challenging and interactive talk by the Revd Nicholas Henshall, Dean of the Chelmsford diocese. 

Entitled 'Let's Get Out of Here', the talk was given to 36 people involved in the course, discussing his view of mission in the Church.

Originating in 2013, the 'Worship Academy' was started as a response to the dire shortage of active Local Preachers and Worship Leaders in the Circuit. Those who were active were in need of encouragement and support, and so 'Worship Academy' was born.

Now merged with the new training for Worship Leaders and Local Preachers, the academy has trained, accredited and commissioned over a dozen leaders and preachers.

Each session starts with a joint meal in fellowship, followed by a short act of worship and a speaker or workshop, relating to leading worship.

One participant said: "It is difficult to put into words how much I value Worship Academy - it's like being part of an extended family; from the chat and laughter over a meal, to the thought-provoking and often challenging discussions prompted by our speaker for that day. It's helped to deepen my understanding of the Bible, Methodism, and my own faith, and I believe has led directly to my decision to explore local preaching. I know I can count on the support of all my Worship Academy friends as I move forward with that."    

(Source: Buzz 162 - New Year Bumper Special)    

The Messy Olympics
From: Wellspring Methodist Church, Congleton

A number of children, parents and church volunteers met together at a church in Congleton last summer to enjoy an Olympic themed Messy Church.

Special activities were held, including flag making, sports and medal presentations.

John Swinden, of Wellspring Methodist, said: "Themed Messy Churches have been a great way to not only get the children more involved, but to relate to the adults and get them engaged too."

Following crafts and sports, there was a short time of worship before the children enjoyed lunch with one another.

John added: "A great time was had by the children, the parents and the superb band of helpers from Wellspring Church."

(Source: Buzz 162 - New Year Bumper Special)    

Beibl Byw (Living Bible)
From: Across Wales

2016 saw a year-long campaign in Wales to encourage people of all ages to engage with the Bible.

Beibl Byw (Living Bible) was jointly launched by the Bible Society, beibl.net and the Welsh Sunday Schools Council following the publication of three Welsh language translations of the Bible and a new 'Ap Beibl' for smart phones.

Different churches got involved through providing supporting initiatives and resources, with the Methodist Church providing a Welsh language version of Navigate, a resource for young people.

At last year's Urdd National Eisteddfod, the largest youth festival in Europe, children and young people joined in the Bible fun through a range of activities including a treasure hunt where the faces of characters had been blanked out and challenged to go and look for four volunteers dressed as those characters wandering around the site, who would then offer to tell their story.

(Source: Buzz 162 - New Year Bumper Special)   

Wesley Hymns
From: Springwell Village Methodist Chapel, Gateshead

With almost every seat taken in the chapel, Methodists and friends from other churches in the Newcastle and Darlington Districts gathered on Sunday 29 May to mark the 225th anniversary of John Wesley's death and Aldersgate Day, with a service of favourite hymns by John's brother, Charles.

A choir of 45 voices, led by retiring church organist Richard Jennings, began the afternoon with Samuel Sebastian Wesley's 'Lead me, Lord' followed by nine inspiring and uplifting Wesley hymns. 

Between the hymns, sung with great passion by the congregation and choir, members of the church provided historical background as to when and why the particular hymns were penned. The choir provided two anthems to the afternoon service - Ernest Young's arrangement of 'Jesus the name high over all' and 'Jesus, lover of my soul'.

So many people worked together to make the afternoon a resounding success including three choirs, the church stewards and members of the Bede Circuit. The church were particularly grateful to Premier Christian Radio for the idea behind the service and for coming along and recording the event which was broadcasted on the radio station during the August Bank Holiday weekend.

(Source: Buzz 162 - New Year Bumper Special)  

Easter Cross Stitch
From: Ashbourne Methodist Church, Derbyshire

Last Easter a church in Derbyshire decided to take the Gospel to the streets in a unique and unusual way.

The members of Ashbourne Methodist Church decided to take their cross stitching to the street, displaying messages of Easter hope and joy on their church railings.

Located on a busy road used by shoppers and tourists alike, the building is in a prime location for people from the community to see the display.

The story of Holy Week was condensed into eight 'sound-bites', which were then stitched onto fabric with a small symbolic picture in accompaniment. A backing fabric was added, and then from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday a different banner each day was tied to the railings.

The organiser Fiona Green said: "We all wanted to share the good-news and our story with our community. Even through stitching we can be proclaiming the Gospel through our work."

(Source: Buzz 162 - New Year Bumper Special)

Giving up Church for Lent 
From: Poynton Methodist Church, Stockport

A congregation in Stockport made the decision to close their church doors for Lent, but not for the reasons you might think…

Poynton Mehtodist Church cancelled their regular services, sermons and songs for Lent last year to try and get closer to God.

Each week there were new alternative methods of worship with a different focus including hymn writing, evangelism and a Bible quiz!

The Revd John Wiseman said: "Through not holding our normal services, we were able to have a new perspective on meeting inspirationally, sharing out faith, worshiping creatively and freshen how we express 'being' church here in Poynton."

(Source: Buzz 162 - New Year Bumper Special)

Out in Faith
From: Costa, Harrogate

A new weekly safe space to welcome, gather and celebrate God-given diversity has been taking place in a local coffee shop in Harrogate.

OUT in FAITH is an LGBTQI Faith Fellowship, to welcome all people to come together and share fellowship and worship in a relaxed and welcoming environment, whilst enjoying coffee, cake and conversation.

The weekly meetings started in September, but further meetings have also taken place once a month in a hotel in Leeds.

(Source: Buzz 162 - New Year Bumper Special)

Prayers in the Wind
From: Central Methodist Church, Preston

The congregation of Central Methodist Church in Preston used their outside railings in the run up to Christmas to hold a special outreach initiative for the local community.

Passers-by were encouraged to stop and leave their thoughts and prayer on ribbons tied to the church railings.  Many people took the opportunity to remember something or someone special, as they went about their Christmas shopping in the city centre.

The ribbons were then gathered up as part of a special Christmas celebration service.

The Revd Sue Griffiths added: "We were encouraged by the prayer railings of Spital Street Methodist Church, Dartford as featured in the Buzz, and thought we could do something similar to inspire our local community too."

If you've been inspired by a good-news story in the Buzz, or want to know more information about how you can do something similar in your community, please get in touch!

(Source: Buzz 162 - New Year Bumper Special)

 

Advent in Art
From: Stirling Methodist Church, Scotland

For several months in the lead up to Christmas, members and friends of Stirling Methodist Church, Scotland, have been painting pictures and writing poems about the Christmas story.

With the topic being left up to the artist, pieces were produced on a variety of different themes from 'The Annunciation' to 'The Slaughter of the Innocents'.

On Saturday 3rd December, the church hosted a small exhibition of the work where visitors, members and passers-by could appreciate the display with a warm welcome and refreshments.

Despite not being a fundraising event, people gave generously and more than £200 was raised in donation to Christian Aid's Appeal for Syrian refugees.

 

(Source: Christmas Special, Buzz 161)    

Light Party
From: River Methodist Church, Dover

On Saturday 29 October, River Methodist Church and the Living Well Church jointly hosted a Light Party attracting nearly 100 people from across Dover, for a Christian alternative to Halloween.

Children and adults were able to join in with a range of activities making for a very busy fun packed afternoon. The Revd Miriam Moul, minister of River Methodist Church, led the event with an exploration of Jesus as a light in the darkness. The children were then encouraged to learn a new song with actions and create their own lighthouses to encourage being light in the darkness.

Miriam commented on the day: "Of course, you can't hold a party in autumn without the odd pumpkin… in fact our youth group helped to hollow out more than 40 pumpkins for the day!"

The children were able to carve their own heart designs in to the pumpkins, which led to an impressive display symbolising love and joy. They were then able to lead their families around the hall choosing whichever activities they preferred, including fishing out edible worm sweets from 'mud' and 'red fire ants' from coconut rice.

Additional activities included face painting, apple bobbing, light kebab making and more. Those who attended were then able to enjoy songs and videos before testing their aim with light-bulb shaped piñatas.

The afternoon closed with a shared meal and toffee apple cake.

Miriam added: "This was a great celebration of light and an extremely positive event for all those who attended. It was a great opportunity to work together as churches, declaring God's love and light in our community." 

(Source: Buzz 160)     

Rejoicing on the green
From: Baildon Methodist Church, Bradford

This Eco congregation of Baildon Methodist Church, Bradford, ended a celebratory service by praying on its lawn.

Ten years on since Baildon Church appointed its first Eco Officer, the church has enjoyed a variety of services on electricity, oil, water and the biblical basis for Eco theology.

As well as many services highlighting the importance of environmental issues, the church has also gone to great lengths to ensure it obtains all its electricity from renewable and environmentally friendly sources.

As well as installing solar panels on the roof, which in turn has gone on to generate funds for the installation of LED lights, the old gas central heating has been replaced by infrared heating and extensive insulation has been installed.

In this year's celebration, examples of fruits from the trees in the church garden were displayed, along with an acted-out conversation between St Francis and God on the state of the earth. Hymns written for the occasion were sung and individuals were challenged to take specific eco actions mirroring those of the church.

Continuing their efforts, the congregation has been inspired to raise money to erect aPassivhaus: a special type of building which consumes very little energy.

Mervyn Flecknoe, Eco Officer for the church said: "By massively reducing our carbon dioxide emissions, we are following Christ's words in Mark 16:15 'Proclaim the good news to the whole creation'." 

(Source: Buzz 159)       

Mission in the heart of Derby
From: Derby Methodist Circuit

A new urban mission initiative has been launched in Derby city centre.

Following the closure of the Methodist city centre church, Queen's Hall, the Derby Circuit bought two houses in Castleward, a new 'urban village' in the heart of the city.

One is a manse for Deacon Jane Rice, who came to Derby in 2014 to develop city centre ministry, and the other is the house next door which has been named the Susanna Wesley House.

This new house is intended to be a home of hospitality, prayer, table feast and group reflections that encourage the expression of faith and spirituality through the creative arts.

Earlier this year, Chair of the Nottingham and Derby District, the Revd Loraine N Mellor, and Derby Circuit Superintendent, the Revd Jenny Dyer, led representatives from around the Circuit in a house-blessing for the Susanna Wesley House, dedicating each room in turn.

Participants spent the following hour praying at prayer stations around the house and garden. With the event finished with prayer together in the garden, and the cutting of a celebration cake.

The occasion was just one part of Prayerfest, a District initiative which saw Loraine visit all sixteen Circuits in the District during the year to share in prayer events.

(Source: Buzz 158)      

Coming Together
From: York Circuit

Nearly 1000 Methodists gathered together for the York Circuit Celebration at the York Barbican last month.  

The vision behind the meeting was to draw everyone together from across the circuit, and offer a welcome break to those who work week after week in the service of their church.

Many practical preparations were needed in advance of the event, including locating a venue, planning coaches, arranging lunches and cancelling the regular Sunday services within the circuit.

Worship, led by One Sound (a UK leading Christian youth music ensemble), gave the day a truly celebratory feel as the congregation joined in with Wesley hymns and modern worship songs alike. Along with singing, prayers and sermons, a video was shown highlighting some of what had happened around the circuit in the past year.

Children and Youth sessions also ran alongside the main event, with Big Ministries taking the 5-11s and the Youth President, Craig Gaffney resourcing the 11-18s. The final part of the day saw all ages come together again for more worship and prayer.

Ex-President of the Conference, the Revd Steve Wild, spoke about the need for risk-taking mission, and encouraged everyone to show the generous love of Jesus in their communities. While Vice-President Rachel Lampard MBE spoke about God's desire for 'oceans of justice', challenging everyone to think about how we can stand up for justice in the current political climate.

Putting this message into practice, a collection was held for All We Can's Refugee appeal - raising more than £4250. 

(Source: Buzz 157)     

Worship at the Conference
From: Across the Connexion

Methodists from across the Connexion joined in the Reception into Full Connexion and the Conference Worship on Sunday 3 July via the internet live stream service.

The Conference members in London were joined virtually by Methodists in Silsden, Tadcaster, Cambridge and beyond as presbyters and deacons were received into Full Connexion with the Conference.

In the lead up to the event a number of ordinands were asked about their experiences leading up to the day which was put into a video shown during the service. 

(Source: Buzz 156)    

Growing the Rural Church
From: St John's Methodist Church, Yorkshire

On a beautiful sunny afternoon, around 60 people met together in the newly rebuilt St John's Methodist Church in Settle, North Yorkshire. While most people attending were from the northern circuits of the West Yorkshire District, some were from as far away as Huddersfield, and were also joined by Anglican colleagues as part of the ongoing ecumenical gatherings on the subject of church growth in rural areas.

Based on the theme of the valley of dry bones from the Old Testament prophet Ezekiel, delegates considered how God was bringing life to the valleys full of dry stone walls - a prominent feature of the landscape in this part of North Yorkshire.

"We shared many good news stories of church growth," said Deacon Maggie Patchett. "Lots of wonderful things have been happening, including the setting up of chaplaincies at auction marts, church services held in pubs and caravan parks, a Christian fellowship that has grown from five to over 30, and an afterschool tuck shop which grew into a Messy Church.  Sharing together our ideas, obstacles and solutions has really helped us to learn from each other and grow together."

The day was a truly ecumenical affair, being led by local vicar the Revd Canon Ian Greenhalgh, Roman Catholic Priest Father Francis Smith from Settle and Methodist Deacon Maggie Patchett, from the West Yorkshire District Rural Outreach Project"

(Source: Buzz 155)   

Day of Prayer
From: Fairhaven Methodist Church, Blackpool

More than 100 people attended a day of prayer at a church in Blackpool, focused on the theme of God's Love.

As well as being open for prayer, the church held several stations across the hall each with a different focus on reflection including objects, reflective films, children's activities and refreshments.

Jill Ruttler, who attended the service, explained: "You don't need to spend hours in prayer to spend time with God. The idea behind opening the church doors for these days of prayer is so that people can pop in for a short time and recharge around their busy day".

(Source: Buzz 154)  

An Extraordinary Easter
From: Wesley Methodist Church, Leigh-on-Sea

Wesley Methodist Church in Leigh-on-Sea, near Southend, set out to make Easter even more extraordinary for local families this year by holding a special event.

Entitled 'Extraordinary Easter: The Bunny, Donkey, Serpent and Chick', the event took place on March 20 and saw a real bunny, donkey, serpent and chick take part!

Following the special service a bouncy castle, crafts, donkey rides, walk-through Easter story, petting farm and café were held for visitors to enjoy.

Anna Wratislaw, Communications Officer for the church, said: "As a church, we wanted to share the celebration of the extraordinary story of Easter with our local c                                                        ommunity, and were really pleased when nearly 200 people attended and had a superb time.

"We're really looking forward to our next 'Extraordinary' event!"

(Source: Buzz 153 - Easter)    

From humble beginnings
From: Great Britain

We think Francis Asbury was born on 20 or 21 August, 1745 in Hamstead, on the borders of the Black Country with Birmingham, to parents Joseph and Eliza.

Asbury's mother was a devout Christian and major influence on the boy. Francis was a good scholar and able to read the Bible by the age of six. But by the age of thirteen he left school to become an apprentice chape-maker and blacksmith in the Sandwell Valley.

The Asburys attended the parish church of All Saints at West Bromwich, where the vicar was a man of great Methodist enthusiasm and friend of John Wesley. In his early teens Francis attended a Methodist service at nearby Hilltop. He was greatly moved by this service and at the age of 18 was converted and soon became a local preacher.

The next two years were spent leading the Wesleyan Society class at West Bromwich. Two years later he extended his preaching rounds to other Wesleyan societies in Wednesbury, Walsall, Wolverhampton and Bilbrook.

It was in July 1771 that Francis Asbury went to John Wesley`s Chapel (the New Room) in Bristol to attend the annual conference of Wesley`s preachers. There, Wesley asked his assembled preachers: "Our brethren in America call aloud for help. Who are willing to go over to help them?" Francis Asbury took up the challenge, went back to say farewell to his parents and set sail on the River Avon to the New World.

Source: J. Keith Cheetham
(Source: Buzz 152 - Asbury Special)    

50th Anniversary Celebrations
From: Livingston United Parish, Scotland

A number of former ministers, representatives and civic heads from the local community were addressed by the Revd Canon Brian Hardy at the Livingston United Parish's 50th anniversary celebration last month.

The Revd Hardy brought much nostalgia to the event, having originally been inducted 50 years ago at the original church's formation service. The Livingston United Parish is made up of four denominations: the Church of Scotland, the Scottish Episcopal Church, the United Reformed Church and the Methodist Church.

Johnnie Burgoyne, a member of the church, said: "Being a united church has had its challenges, but over these past 50 years, we have really been blessed with an abundance of good people - clergy and laity - who have shaped the church's existence and laid the foundation of the parish."

(Source: Buzz 151)      

Big Night of Worship
From: Central Methodist Church Blackwood, Wales

Last summer, the Gwent Hills and Vales Circuit decided to host a week of outreach called Mission Week. Over the week, all 33 of the circuit's churches got involved. Each church was challenged to do something new and different to encourage, enthuse and change people's view about the Methodist Church, and to show how Christianity can be relevant in a modern society.

One of these churches, Central Methodist Church, Blackwood, wanted to reach out particularly to a younger audience and decided that one way to do this would be through music. A 'Big Night of Worship' was organised following the theme 'Creation'.

The evening consisted of modern and traditional hymns, played by a band and also a few on the organ, video meditations, readings, music, prayers and two extraordinarily inspiring testimonies. The young men talked and shared experiences of how God has been working in their lives and supporting them through difficult times. At several points throughout, you could see members of the congregation holding back the tears.

Daniel Cushing, a member of the church, said: "The worship was very uplifting and we really felt the Holy Spirit in our church, our hearts, and our spirits as we gathered together praising the Lord for the beauty of the earth that he created and gave us."

(Source: Bumper Buzz Speciial 150)     

Pet Blessing 
From: Grangewood Methodist Church, Nottingham

A small group of members from Grangewood Methodist Church in Wollaton decided that a service to bless pets could be a good way to reach out to friends and family.

It was quickly decided that holding the event inside the church might not be the best idea with so many animals. Instead, the church car park became the appropriate place for the service.

More than 50 adults and children attended the Pet Blessing, many of whom were non-members, alongside a large number of dogs of all sizes, several guinea pigs and a rabbit (all of which were also non-members!)

Leading the service was local preacher Martin Sykes, starting the congregation off with the hymn 'All things bright and beautiful' and finishing with 'If I were a butterfly', complete with actions led by the church's Family Worker, Jessica Warrey.

Aside from some rather loud barking, the service went without a hitch and was well received with positive comments from the attendees, both human and animal! They all look forward to another Pet Blessing sometime in the future.

(Source: Bumper Buzz Speciial 150)     

Hundreds shine with Brightline
From: Stricklandgate Methodist Church, Kendal

Hundreds of young people from all over Cumbria packed into Stricklandgate Methodist Church, Kendal, to see the band Brightline last October.

Eight churches from across Kendal worked together for more than six months to put on the event, with the aim to reach out to young people from across Cumbria with the good news of Jesus.

Event co-ordinator, the Revd Jonny Gios said: "It was such a delight to work with 70 volunteers from different churches, all working together."

The event itself saw Brightline, part of The Message Trust, perform a mixture of interactive music and testimonials as well as hold an altar call, to which 30 young people responded.

The ecumenical partnership of churches that set up the event is now planning a Youth Alpha Course to help these, and other young people in the area, grow and develop in their faith.

"For us locally, the work continues now as we seek to help these young people grow in faith, which we plan to do together," The Revd Angela Whitaker, Rural Dean of Kendal Deanery, added. "It makes sense; we're better together."

(Source: Bumper Buzz Speciial 150)    

Life-sized nativity
From: Withington Methodist Church, Manchester

Conveniently placed on one of Europe's busiest bus routes, Withington Methodist Church, Manchester, created a life-sized nativity scene to display in its foyer window over the Christmas season.

The window display was a great point of conversation, featuring a life-sized Joseph, Mary, baby Jesus and a donkey.

In the lead up to Christmas, members from the church also knitted 55 hats to send to those in need of warmth at this time of year. The hats were sent to South Africa in response to an appeal from a member's sister who lives there.

(Source: Bumper Buzz Speciial 150)   

Real life nativity
From: Bramford Road Methodist Church, Ipswich

A live Christmas nativity was held in Ipswich last month, featuring a real baby!

Over 150 people from the local community attended the special event. Families could have their photos taken with the donkey or visit the star of the show, baby Annabel, who played Jesus.

The minister, the Revd Kathy Flynn, said of the day: "My inspiration came from watching the Christmas special of 'The Vicar of Dibley' where they performed a live nativity. I then put it to the church, who very quickly adopted the idea."

"As a church we wanted to share the true Christmas story in a fun and inviting way. 'Follow the Star' exceeded my expectations and dreams - it was fantastic."

(Source: Bumper Buzz Speciial 150)  

Barnstorming
From: Paxham Methodist Church, Brighton & Hove

Barnstormers, Patcham Methodist Church's very successful theatre group, enjoyed a wonderful time of worship and fellowship during its annual service, using the message of Jesus and the rich man from Mark 10:17-31.

Going strong for more than 10 years, Barnstormers takes its name from Patcham Methodist Church's original identity as a grain barn. Today, the group is made up of around 70 members from the local community, who perform on average twice a year.

Resident minister, the Revd Dermot Thornberry added: "There's always something for everyone with the Barnstormers at their shows. The group is a great way to outreach to those on the fringes of society."

If you are interested in setting up a theatre group in your church or community, why not get in touch?

(Source: Bumper Buzz Speciial 150) 

Uke'n Worship
From: Ruxley Church, Surrey

Worshippers at Ruxley Church in Ewell received a shock during their All Saints' service in November when members of Ruxley's resident music group 'Emmaus' put their normal instruments aside and picked up ukuleles to accompany the congregation in a rendition of 'When all the saints go marching in'.

The Revd Dr Mark Borley, minister of Ruxley, explains: "It all began when one member of Emmaus was given a ukulele for his birthday last July. The rest of the band were tempted to buy their own and, since September, they have been preparing for their ukulele debut.

"The most exciting thing is that a few people, who don't normally worship here, have been tempted to join the group. We enjoy this kind of variety and creativity at Ruxley, and look forward to the ukulele group contributing to further services and concerts in the future".

(Source: Buzz 149) 

Refugee Services
From: Shetland Islands and beyond

Methodist churches and circuits across the Connexion have been putting on special services, events and fundraising activities in support of the current refugee crisis.

Just one example of churches in prayer and action for refugees can be seen in the combined ecumenical efforts of the churches in the Shetland Islands holding prayer vigils and services alongside bake sales, car washes, coffee mornings and more to raise community support and awareness of the situation.

Dr Val Turner, chair of the Shetland Council of Churches Trust, said "This is just a flavour of how Shetland's church communities are responding in quiet, manageable ways to a situation which feels so enormous and unmanageable. We have been delighted that people are supporting the campaigns locally, through prayer, collecting money and taking supplies to Calais."

Through services and fundraising efforts such as these, the Methodist Church in Britain has so far received around £40,000 in donations for the refugee crisis. For more information on how you can get involved through prayer, reflection, action and donation please see below.

(Source: Buzz 148)

Pathways to Worship
From: Derby Circuit, Nottingham and Derby

The Derby Circuit Missions Task Group organised an afternoon of fun, learning and worship earlier this year in a special event whereby people could experience different types of worship connecting with the community.      

The event was held at Spondon Methodist Church, Derby, where those present were challenged by the Revd Raymond Lunt, to go back to their churches and consider how their worship might connect with the community around them.       

The afternoon consisted of three workshops which gave tasters of different outreach opportunities taking place in churches in the circuit. The workshops gave attendees a sample of Messy Church, Café Praise and Saturday Café.       

Jean Parton, member of the Derby Circuit Missions Task Group, added "The Pathways to Worship afternoon was a fantastic opportunity for people in the Circuit to experience some of the different ways that their neighbouring churches are connecting with the local community through worship. All those who attended felt a great deal had been learned from the experience, as well as a lot of fun." 

(Source: Buzz 147)

Locked Out
From: Abergavenny Methodist Church, Wales

A Methodist congregation was locked out of their church building in a service of solidarity with persecuted Christians whose buildings have been destroyed or confiscated.

The special service began outside of Abergavenny Methodist Church with the doors locked. Signs declaring that worship was 'forbidden' were taken down before people moved inside to watch a DVD detailing some of the persecution experienced by Christians in India.

The service was to raise awareness of Release International. The charity works to support Christians who suffer persecution for their faith and encourages congregations across the UK to hold annual Great Outdoor Services to remember those less privileged than ourselves who are not able to worship freely.

(Source: Buzz 146)

For all to see
From: The Methodist Conference, Southport

On Wednesday 1 July the Methodist Conference gathered outside the Southport Theatre and Convention Centre to begin its Conference Communion Service.

 Over 300 members, volunteers, staff and visitors gathered on the steps of a neighbouring hotel overlooking the lake to begin the service.
 
The President and Vice-President of the Conference led the service, with the Revd Steve Wild telling a movi

ng story of the restoration of a graffiti tarnished alter table. Despite intermittent PA problems, their voices could be heard echoing across the waters. So much so that, at one point during the service, a speed boat pulled up alongside to see what was going on.


After hearing Steve speak, the 300+ crowd processed in song back to the hall to share Holy Communion singing, "We are marching in the light of God".

Whilst the open-air section of the service is not available online, you can catch up on the rest of the service here.

(Source: Buzz 145)

Songs of Praise with the BBC's Pam Rhodes
From: Centenary Methodist Church Boston, Boston Circuit

The BBC's Pam Rhodes, Presenter of Songs of Praise for over 20 years, kindly offered to do a non-televised service for us.

During the service Pam gently interviewed members of our church and the surrounding churches in the area. This was a time filled with many stories of how God has worked and is working in their lives.

Our Church was bathed in light with the ripple effect of the flowing of the Holy Spirit, as our voices lifted heavenwards with the sounds of the Salvation Army Band.

Pam shared, "The Holy Spirit's moving in this place," and hands were raised in clapping to the Lord, creating a beautiful wave of love and togetherness with members of the different churches joining together and sharing their journeys.

Audrey has been a member of Centenary Church here in Boston for many years. She told Pam: "I was such a shy person before I invited Jesus into my life - now I feel such joy, as Jesus is so real! He is so very dear to me!"

Neil from Churches Together in Boston. "Don't copy the behaviours of the world, God will help us uphold Christ's one body by the grace of given gifts, and love for each other."

God put on a beautiful light show for us, bathing our church with his glory as many denominations gathered together with one voice and the shared love of our Lord. It was an evening that was truly special beyond words.

(Source: Buzz 144)

'Open Church'
From: St. Andrew's Methodist Church, Cheriton - South Kent Circuit

Back in June 2013 during my prayer time I received a calling to open the church doors at St Andrew's. God was calling me to provide a place of prayer, worship and stillness - a haven for people away from the busyness of life.     

'Open Church' was launched on 20 April 2014 and has now completed its first year. Averaging around eight hours a day, seven days a week, and with the help of friends from across the church community, this has proved a real blessing to so many people. With creative use of the church space during the week we have held mid-week services, used prayer stations and given people somewhere to go to escape the outside stresses of life.   

Rather than just the normal 'key holders' enjoying access, many more people have been given the opportunity to come in throughout the week and this includes a number of our own church members. Individuals from all walks of life have experienced the sacred space 'Open Church' offers. Coming from all over the world people have shared their stories, asked for prayer and appreciated open discussion about scripture. Recently the President of Conference, the Revd Ken Howcroft, visited the South Kent Circuit where the Revd Sam Funnell is superintendent. During his time with us he came to St Andrew's where, amongst other things, he heard about the work of 'Open Church'.

I have always believed that God was placing in the hearts of people a desire to come into his church to meet with him and during the first year of 'Open Church' this great need has been revealed.

If you would like to read the reports sent out during the first year then please click this link.

(Source: Buzz 143)

Celebrating 80th anniversary in style
From: Patcham Methodist Church, Brighton and Hove Circuit

To the harmonious sounds of the church orchestra our guests sat down to enjoy a delicious Mediterranean three-course dinner at the start of our 80th anniversary celebrations. The hall had been decorated beautifully in purple and silver. Throughout the evening the guests were entertained with song and prose.

Sunday morning was the celebration service, the current minister the Revd Dermot Thornberry shared the service with the Revd Doug Hopwood who was at Patcham eight years ago. Throughout the service groups shared memories from way back, and younger members shared why Patcham Methodist is still special today!  

The site on which the church stands today was originally a tithe/drover barn with massive beams rumoured to be from one of the ships in the Armada fleet. Old slides were shown of the original church and how it has changed over the years

The celebrations continue with a festival of arts and crafts, flower displays, local history and demonstrations at the beginning of May

(Source: Buzz 142)

'Singing the Faith' Day
From: Wesley Church, Cambridge Circuit

136 people from around the East Anglia District gathered in Cambridge to explore the riches of 'Singing the Faith'. Organist and Choral Director Robin Walker led a series of workshops with themes: 'Finding and Trying New Music', 'Introducing new music to your Church' and 'Being Creative and Having Fun'. The day was hosted by the Revd Alison Walker, a minister in the Cambridge Circuit.

Using his range of musical skills, Robin introduced the gathering to new tunes to some familiar Wesley hymns and new words to familiar tunes. There were harmonies and descants to practise.   There were tips on accompanying hymns using the skills and gifts of the whole congregation and on using the CD set available via Methodist Publishing. Rhythms from the world church were tried out, including those syncopations we older Methodists often find hard! Ideas flowed on how to teach new music to our congregations. And best of all - there was lots of singing!

From the enthusiastic comments at the end of the day, it was clear that everyone had found the day inspiring. "Robin made it all such fun. I was already enthusiastic about Singing the Faith; now I'm really excited about it." "What an amazing, informative, interesting, inspirational and uplifting day…"  "I came away feeling encouraged, and fully justified in leading our church to use Singing the Faith as our core resource (some persuasion was needed!)" 

(Source: Buzz 141)

Mosaic Church
From: Endike Methodist Church - York and Hull District

In December 2013, Mark and Deana Button took on the leadership of Endike Methodist Church in Hull as part of the work of the Pioneer Connexion partnership between the Methodist Church and the Pioneer Network. Their work is jointly funded by the York and Hull District, Hull West Circuit and Pioneer Trust.

In January this year, the church began a new phase in its journey, relaunching as Mosaic Church. The Revd Ken Howcroft, President of the Conference, and Gill Dascombe, Vice-President of the Conference, were in attendance at the Friday evening launch, as were the Revd Stephen Burgess, District Chair of York and Hull, and the Revd Dave Perry, Superintendent of Hull West Circuit.

Nigel Bailey, Partnership Development Director of the Pioneer Network, said: "The launch was a lively affair with about one hundred people coming from all around the country to show their support. The new start will provide fresh hope and inspiration for the membership and help to make new contacts and opportunities for connecting with the community around about. Worship is in a modern style and Mark and Deana have also launched a new creche and a children's program for 4-11 year olds."

(Source: Buzz 140)

LGBT Christian worship group success
From: Berry Lane Methodist Church, West Hertfordshire and Borders Circuit

Berry Lane Methodist Church has a small congregation with fewer than ten church members and is unable to sustain Sunday morning worship every week. However, for the past three years on the second Sunday of the month, the church has been organising and hosting a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) fellowship meeting in the afternoon. The meeting is supported by the West Herts and Borders Methodist Circuit. It attracts people from all churches and none, including many people who have had bad experiences in church because of their sexuality and who would be unlikely to come to a regular service.

Organiser Sarah Hagger-Holt (pictured with her partner Rachel) said: "Each meeting includes a discussion, speaker or activity, as well as a short time of worship led by different people in the group, and, of course, tea, coffee and cake, again offered by different people every month. Other activities have included baking bread together; organising a stall at the local Herts Pride where many were surprised and happy to see Christians who were welcoming rather than judgemental; and writing letters to support LGBT rights at home and abroad."

Over the years, the group has grown into a warm, supportive and diverse community. Attendance at meetings ranges from four to eighteen people and ages span from a two-year-old boy (accompanied by his two mums) to people in their seventies and eighties. No matter how different each meeting is, group members share their hopes, difficulties and prayers together every month.

(Source: Buzz 139)

Light in the Darkness Aspects of Advent
From: Wealdstone Methodist Church, Harrow and Hillingdon Circuit

During the first week of Advent, Wealdstone Methodist Church stacked up the church's chairs in order to create a space in which to set up prayer centres.

Each centre explored one focus of Advent through words, pictures, poems, colours and Bible texts. A single candle shone in the centre.

Helen Schoon, church member and local preacher in the Harrow and Hillingdon Circuit, said: "Themes for reflection included Waiting, Watching, Preparation, Penitence, Hope, Light and God's Coming to the World.

"Open every day from Monday to Saturday, this offered everyone time and space to pause and explore the season of Advent." The week came to a close with a service of evening prayer.

(Source: Buzz 138)

Poetry for the housebound
From: Wye Methodist Church, Kent

Wye Methodist Church is a small worshipping community situated in a village in Kent. The listed chapel hosts many community and ecumenical groups as well as the "tea service" - an innovative style of worship with cake.

Recently, the church offered a bursary for a community service or social welfare project. It was eventually awarded to Robert Graham for his unusual and imaginative proposal which, in fact, met both criteria.

Robert writes poetry. "I try to bring spoken, uplifting poetry and listening skills to places which people find it challenging or impossible to leave," he said. "I aim to bring this poetry back into the everyday, in a non-threatening, safe, social, and enjoyable environment. In two words, 'poetry calling'."

One of his poems is about a centipede who sets about putting on 50 pairs of wellingtons after hearing that rain is expected. But when the centipede finally picks up his umbrella and steps outside, he discovers that the sun is shining.

"I visit people who are housebound or who find it difficult to get about," Robert said. His unusual version of pastoral care has been warmly welcomed by people in the community.

(Source: Buzz 137)

175 years of blessings
From: Tibberton Methodist Church in Gloucestershire

People from churches and communities across Gloucestershire and beyond packed into Tibberton Methodist Church last month to celebrate 175 years of worship and witness in the rural community.

The milestone birthday also coincided with their annual Harvest Festival which, for a rural farming community, is a time of thanksgiving and praise, "when all is safely gathered in".

Visitors saw the usual harvest displays together with floral and photographic illustrations of the life and history of the chapel. In the evening, one of the church members, Dr Helen Shields, gave a talk about Malawi and her work as a doctor in a palliative care clinic there.

On the Sunday afternoon, people packed the church to capacity for a service of celebration and thanksgiving led by the Revd Chris Cory. He read out messages from several former ministers. More than £330 was raised towards the work of the clinic in Malawi and it's hoped that this total will be matched by a government-backed scheme. 

Gloucestershire Methodist superintendent minister, the Revd James Tebbutt, said: "It was a wonderful service of celebration that included an exhibition about the church's history, life and service. It also included support for projects abroad. Ministers and preachers, past and present, recalled memories of earlier times. The chapel was packed and a tea followed the Harvest celebration. The whole weekend underlined the loyal and faithful service of so many people."

(Source: Buzz 136)

Lights Out
From:  Euxton Methodist Church, Chorley and Leyland Circuita

During recent weeks, the market town of Chorley displayed willow statues of soldiers to compliment the dedication of its new memorial to the "Chorley Pals" lost in World War One. This inspired a local art group in nearby Euxton to prepare artwork themed on this important point in history, and to develop plans to commemorate the sacrifices made during the Great War by linking their project with the Royal British Legion Lights Out event.

Lydia Goodliffe, worship leader at Euxton Methodist Church, said: "Stuart Clewlow, a local historian and researcher, was campaigning to build a memorial in our village, and together with Euxton War Memorial Group, he organised a display at the village gala day. The event caught the imagination of our joint churches' group and a commemorative event and service was organised at Euxton Methodist Church at the time of the national event."

A display with photos and local memorabilia was arranged in the church hall. Following refreshments, people moved into the church and prepared to light candles at 10pm. The Revd Andrew Mashiter led a service of readings, music and reflection, which included the reading of the Euxton Roll of Honour: 29 local men and women who gave their lives between 1914-1918.

The Methodist church was packed with people from the other churches in Euxton, as well as representatives of the council and the British Legion. "We shared prayers of thanksgiving for sacrifices made, and for peace in our troubled world," added Lydia. "As we sang our closing hymn, 'The Day Thou Gavest Lord Is Ended', we extinguished the candles, perhaps to relight them on 11 November."   

(Source: Buzz 135)

Eisteddfod in Devon
From: Torridge Circuit, North Devon 

On 18 June the Torridge Circuit in North Devon held an Eisteddfod (a Welsh festival of literature, music and performance) inspired by superintendent minister, the Welsh-born Revd Ken Morgan.

It was held at the circuit's largest church in Great Torrington. Competitions included choir singing, solos and duets. The festival also featured Bible reading, poetry and parable writing, artwork, sketching, drama and liturgical dance.

Sheila Babb, Torridge circuit administrator and steward, said: "Competitions were held over 10 days culminating in a celebration of gifts and awards. This ceremony was followed, as usual, by a traditional supper. The event was an excellent display of working together and a competitive spirit was enjoyed. It's amazing how God gives us so many gifts which we can use for God's glory in praise and worship. A happy time was had by all."

(Source: Buzz 134)

Pet Service
From: Stocksbridge Christian Centre, Hampshire

The Stocksbridge Christian Centre, a Methodist-Anglican LEP on the Whitwell Estate in Stocksbridge, received a pack of four-legged visitors when it hosted a service for the blessing of pets and their carers.

Members of four different churches came together to take part in the service that was conducted by the Revd James Grayson. "This was the first time that we've hosted this type of service," said the Revd James Grayson. "It was held outdoors. We only had dogs this time, but I would hope that we would get  different types of pets next year. Thirteen people were present, and some passers-by stopped and listened, so I think that some good was done;certainly for the people attending. I hope that next year we'll have a few more  people."

After the service, the pets and their owners enjoyed refreshments together.

(Source: Buzz 133)

Pentecost 
From: Moston Methodist Church, Manchester

This year Pentecost Sunday at Moston Methodist Church was designated an "all age worship" celebration in the form of a birthday party for the church. Staff and children from the church's Sunday club coloured in flags of the countries being represented in the  World Cup. The flags were then made into streamers and hung alongside balloons to welcome members of the congregation as they arrived for the Pentecostal celebration.

Local preacher, John Elston, said: "The children recognised the flags they had coloured in, but also many they hadn't. They had more idea of the countries than the adults! It was a great service enjoyed by all."

During the service, the Lord's Prayer was said in many languages. After prayers, sermons and readings, there was time for fellowship, tea, coffee and a  birthday cake, which was cut during the service. There was also a quiz involving the different languages spoken during prayers. 

(Source: Buzz 132)

Messy Cathedral
From: Darlington Methodist District

Messy Cathedral in Durham Cathedral was an event to be part of this Easter. Organised by regional Messy Church co-ordinators, Anne Offler and Sharon Pritchard, the seven-day event was attended by 450 children and adults.

Crafts and activities were followed by stories, singing and prayer and then a picnic in the cloisters. The theme was focused around Jesus; his  stories, his friends, his miracles, Jesus and prayer and lastly his death and resurrection.

The rafters of the Cathedral rang with laughter during the donkey balloon races and other activities, such as building a house on a partially inflated lilo,  making fish to hang from a fishing rod and popping balls from a penguin to help with prayers.

The Revd Shaun Swithinbank, Deputy Chair of the Darlington District, said: "Young and old were joining in the activities and the  worship songs. The atmosphere moved and inspired us. There were wonderfully joyous times of sharing to reverently prayerful moments as people listened, asked questions and worshipped in this magnificent setting. Messy Church is proving amazingly popular in many other places, and is already taking  place across many of our Methodist and Anglican churches. The aims are to involve all ages in worshipping, having fun and learning together. People went away afterwards with a spring in their step, a smile on their faces and, for some,  a renewed vision of their Christian journey."

The Bishop of Durham, the Right Revd Paul Butler, said: "Messy Church is brilliant. I've been a great fan from the very outset. It's terrific. The message I  want to get across is that this is the Church for many people. This is not preparing people to come to church properly. It really is church for those who  gather and when it's run really well we are seeing people coming to faith in Christ. I love Messy Church."

(Source: Buzz 131)

Prayer Space for a day
From: Norley Methodist Church, North Cheshire

A tree, a tent, cardboard shelter, messages to write, doves to make and fruit to eat. These were just a few of the activities and items that awaited people as they entered  the prayer space created around the theme "fruits of the spirit" at Norley Methodist Church in North Cheshire. Pupils from local schools visited the church and spent an hour within the  space, enjoying the activities on offer and thinking about gifts from God.

Andrea Ellams, family worker, said: "We started the hour together around the tree and ended together in the river, discussing what we had learned about each gift God offers us and asking God to fill us again with his gifts."

The church was open in the evening for adults to explore the space. Some children brought their mums along to show them what they had been doing during the day.

"Everyone enjoyed the time spent in the space," Andrea said. "It gave people time to stop and think about how we act and how God can help us to become a better  person. It was wonderful to see how the children reacted to the space." 

(Source: Buzz 130)

St Paul's Words from the Corinthians
From: Wellspring Methodist Church, Congleton, Cheshire

Marriage Week has grown from humble beginnings to become a leading focus week for organisations involved with marriage. Every year more than a quarter of a million couples across the UK signify their commitment to each other by getting married.

On Saturday 8 February 2014 at 5.15pm, thousands of couples at venues across the UK reaffirmed their wedding vows for 'The Big Promise' world record attempt.

In Congleton, The Big Promise ceremony took place at Wellspring Methodist Church on Canal Street. The Revd Derek Balsdon conducted the proceedings with Graeme Smith officiating as an independent witness to the nine couples taking part.

Alan and Eileen Rafferty, married in 1976, said that they had been planning to renew their vows on a future anniversary but, with this event coming up and it being on Alan's 64th birthday, they felt that it was appropriate to do it now.

Other couples renewing their vows were the Revd Keith and Anne Jarvis, married 50 years this coming August; John and Margaret Swindon, married for 37 years; David and Pam Hargreaves, married for 45 years; Alan and Liz Clarke, married for 31 years; the Revd Derek and Hilary Balsdon, celebrating their Silver Wedding next month; Peter and Margaret Bradley, married for 45 years; David and Catherine Tucker, married for 52 years and Brian and Audrey Furness, married for almost 56 years.

Brian and Audrey Furness from Lower Withington said that they wanted to be a part of this occasion so they could stand up and be counted; to be seen as Christians celebrating and reaffirming the vows they made before God over half a century ago.

The wedding hymn 'Love divine, all loves excelling' commenced the service. The Revd Derek Balsdon focused on St Paul's words from Corinthians, which were not written for weddings, but which express the depth and delight of Christian love. "Paul's words challenge us, not just to love our spouses and family and friends, but to love everyone," said Derek. "In life and in marriage we are called to love one another as God loves us."

(Source: Buzz 129)

0930 Live!
From: Frodsham Methodist Church, Chester and Delamere Forest Circuit in the Chester and Stoke-on-Trent District

It's a decade since Frodsham Methodist Church launched a brand new initiative: an early morning Sunday service designed with all the family in mind.

The service is called "0930 Live!" It was originally held once a month, but for the past six years it has been held on the second and the fourth Sunday.

Matthew Barnard, church member, said: "It's always a lively affair with lots of modern worship songs, sketches and things for children and young people to do. The service is always followed by bacon butties - a winner with the children - and a time to chat."

To celebrate the 10 year anniversary of "0930 Live!" the church held a party followed by a celebration act of worship which was attended by nearly 100 members of the congregation. A worship group for high school age children was launched in 2013 called "Young Minds".

Andrea Ellams, a Young Families worker, said: "It was great to see so many people, ranging from just a few months to over 90 years old, celebrating 10 years of 0930 Live! We look forward to the next 10 years of family-friendly worship and to welcoming many more people in to the church."

For more details about "0930 Live!" and for more information about what else goes on at Frodsham Methodist Church, contact Andrea Ellams by e-mail: andrea.ellams@frodshammethodist.org, telephone 07749877823 or go to the church website at www.frodshammethodist.org 

(Source: Buzz 128)

Here and Now Retreat Day
From: York Circuit

Daring to be experimental, a small group in the York Circuit decided to create a retreat day that would be good for children and also for their church leaders, parents and carers. The day took place at Forest of Galtres Methodist Anglican School.  It wasn't technically a 'quiet day' (although it had times of quiet), and it wasn't a 'fun day' either (although they enjoyed  being together); it was decided that 'retreat day' best captured the group's intention: to spend time going deeper with God.

Karen Turner, a member of  Haxby and Wigginton Methodist Church, said: "We used material created by Rachel Turner, author of Parenting Children for a Life of Faith, which focused on deepening ourrelationships with God and being God-connected rather than just God-smart. In the morning, we spent some time thinking about what chatting to God might mean  and then put it into practice during quiet reflection time, games, writing and drawing in journals."

After some homemade soup and cakes, the group spent the afternoon meditating on John 15: 1-5, playing games and connecting with God through art. The day finished with joyful worship and shared thoughts on people's experiences of the day. 

(Source: Buzz 127) 

Space for God
From: Longton Methodist Central Hall, Stoke-on-Trent

Longton Methodist Central Hall provided Christmas Day meals for the first time this year, on a "pay what you can, if you can" basis.

"Space for God" prayer sessions have also been popular at the hall. Evening meetings have seen 80 or more people gathering for quiet reflection. A new prayer room is currently in development along with the creation of "quiet spaces" inside the hall.

Support for the Christmas meals came from local councillors and businesses, as well as church folk. Longton Methodist Central Hall already hosts a fortnightly pop-up cafe called  "Feed 'em Freedom" which operates on the same basis. Earlier this year, the church opened a school uniform re-cycling exchange and community hub in one of  the shops at the hall's front entrance. Items of uniform are donated, washed, pressed, repaired and sold for a nominal amount from the shop.

The Revd Jeff Short said: "We are also hosting a Filipino Church, a Messy Church, University of the Third Age classes, various clubs and groups, choirs and bands, tea and toast mornings, and we have teamed up with the local children's centre to run a weekly toddlers group. There is a  growing sense of anticipation about the place, which has also has some extensive refurbishment in the recent past." 

(Source: Buzz 126) 

The real meaning of Christmas
From: Tower Hill Methodist Church, Hessle, East Yorkshire 

During Advent last year, Liane Kensett, a student deacon and lay worker at Tower Hill Methodist Church, visited schools to tell children the story of Jesus's birth. She then arranged to take a knitted Mary and Joseph into a different shop in Hessle each day and encouraged children to try and find them.

The Revd Janet Whelan, Methodist Minister in the Hull West Circuit, said: "We were hoping that, through this, more children would be able to concentrate on the real meaning of Christmas and join us to hear a Christmas message for all ages."

Last year was the first year that Tower Hill Methodist Church brought along their knitted Mary and Joseph to their stall in Hessle Square for the Christmas lights switch-on. As well as giving out mince pies to people gathering in the square, volunteers handed out packs containing details of church events in Hessle along with a tea light and prayer card. 

(Source: Buzz 125) 

"Ignite the light, let it shine"
From: Bristol District

A group of 75 young people and their youth workers spent a fun-filled and educational weekend at St Andrew's Methodist Church in Filton, Bristol, focusing on the message: "Ignite the light, let it shine, go out and make a difference". 

The theme was 'fire', the scripture Matthew 5:14-16 and the weekend's mascot was a fire-breathing dragon called "FILLUP" who symbolised: "FILL-ing UP our hearts with God's love, setting them ablaze with love, passion, enthusiasm and compassion and using that to go out and make a difference".

The weekend involved a onesie party, a live gig with the band 'Sounds of Salvation', worship workshops, a Christian Aid workshop, an indoor firework display  projected onto the church hall ceiling, an outdoor fireworks display with sparklers, a trip to At-Bristol Science Museum and the New Room,  Bristol.

Emma Mills, Bristol District youth work enabler, said: "We thought about famous people who had made a difference and also focused on how small acts of  kindness could have a massive impact. Everyone was challenged to think about who had made a difference to their lives as well as thinking about how they  themselves could make a difference. The young people really enjoyed learning about John Wesley. He was obviously someone who made a massive difference to so  many other people and whose life can be linked with the theme of fire in several ways."

The young people also challenged their District Chair, the Revd Ward Jones, to wear a onesie and to get  gunked for the Street Child World Cup Project.  "Ward fabulously rose to the challenge despite not being keen about the idea," Emma Mills continued. "We invited the whole District to support thisfundraising. We are all extremely grateful for the entertainment this provided as well as the amount of money raised, along with the fact that it reinforced  the message about how we can make a difference. So far we have raised £1,300 for Street Child World Cup. Each youth group was asked to identify a  way in which they can fundraise for this project over the next few months. 

(Source: Buzz 124) 

An ecumenical new start
From: Ruxley Church in Epsom

This September a brand new church was officially dedicated and opened in Ruxley Lane, Ewell. The service at the new Ruxley church was led by the Revd Michaela Youngson, Chair of the London District, and the Rt Revd Christopher Hill, Bishop of Guildford. A congregation of more than 220 people attended the service, enjoying songs and hymns by the worship band Emmaus.

The Revd Michaela Youngson and Bishop Christopher Hill began the proceedings by cutting a ribbon at each door into the worship space.

"We had a veritable feast of clergy involved in the dedication service," said Jenny Meineck, press officer for the church. "The Ven Stuart Beake, Archdeacon of Surrey; the Revd Margaret Adams, Superintendent of Wimbledon Circuit; the Revd Canon Stuart Thomas (Anglican) and the Revd Dr Martine Stemerick (Methodist) all participated in the proceedings. A special visitor, the Revd Jeanne Bryan, priest of Emmanuel Church, Ignace, Ontario, flew 5,000 miles from a tiny community in Canada, bringing greetings from her congregation along with a specially carved cross and peace candle."

Ruxley Church has been an ecumenical partnership since 2002. The congregations of Ruxley Methodist Church and the congregation of St Francis of Assisi (Anglican) joined together when the Methodists welcomed in the Anglicans after their church had to be demolished due to subsidence. Ruxley Church is now building links  between Epsom Deanery and the Keewatin District. 

(Source: Buzz 123) 

A Biker's Baptism
From: Arnside Methodist Church, Cumbria

An adult baptism with a difference took place at Arnside Methodist Church in the Cumbria District this summer. Brian Thorpe, a keen Harley Davidson biker, felt the call to become baptised after many years away from the church. More than 30 of his friends from Arnside, including his wife Linda, attended the service to support him.

At the start of the service, the Revd Gary Ridley introduced a few extra visitors: five members of the Christian Biker Association walked into the church dressed in full leathers. Brian's sister Betty was also baptised alongside him.

Delphine Gratrix, church member, said: "A simple and informal, but very moving baptism then followed, with not a dry eye in the place. A compact Biker's Bible was presented to Brian by one of their members who spoke special words of encouragement. There were lots more hugs and kisses as both Brian and Betty moved amongst the congregation. We wish Brian and Betty God's blessing on their Christian journey and thank Rev Gary for a most wonderful service; one that we will always remember." 
 
(Source: Buzz 122) 

Sunday Rocks
From: Prestwich Methodist Church, Bury Circuit

Prestwich Methodist Church in the Bury Circuit near Manchester has recently changed the way it does Sunday school. The newly renamed 'Sunday Rocks' runs four different age groups for children and young people. Each group starts off with a shared Bible reading and key theme for the day.

Jason Brooke, Sunday school coordinator, said: "Our first theme, linked to the name change, was 'Rocks'. Week by week, we created a song and video summing up what we had learned over the three months. The children suggested key words and phrases to sum up each week." 

'Sunday Rocks' also helps children to use modern media in their sharing of the Good News. "Modern media helps them gain confidence in talking about the often hidden 'Christian' stuff," James added. "It helps them feel like they have done this as a team, old and young together." 

(Source: Buzz 121) 

Quiet Time on the Holy Island 
From: The East Durham Methodist Circuit

Local preachers and worship leaders from the East Durham Circuit took part in a quiet day on the Holy Island of Lindisfarne. After a short time to explore the island, the group met for prayers at the chapel of the Community of Aidan and Hilda in the Open Gate retreat house. 

Maureen Simpson, who took part in the retreat, said: "This was quite different to our usual way of prayer. As we walked down the ancient well-worn steps to the chapel, the smell of warmth and candles welcomed us on a misty day. The prayers were in the Celtic style from the book by the community guardian, Ray Simpson. We soon settled into the peace of God that is so apparent on the island." 

After prayers, some of the group met for a pub lunch while others headed off with a picnic to the sand dunes. The group then rejoined to spend time meditating on the boats. 

"We then walked to the heugh and looked over to Hobthrush," Maureen continued. "Some of us braved the wind and North Sea and paddled out. This is known locally as Cuthbert's Island or Cuddy's island: it's where Cuthbert went away from the bustle of Aidan's monastery. We shared stories of how Cuthbert related to the local wildlife, and his way of life. Then we explored the church and the Gospels garden. A visit to the Scriptorium was amazing as we saw the work of Mary Fleeson before meeting at the coffee shop for the return home. I am sure all had some new experience for their Christian journey. I pray the Island spoke to all." 

(Source: Buzz 120)
 

Resurrection Prayer Day 
From:
 Potters Wood Methodist Church, Kingswood, Bristol

A Resurrection Prayer Day was held at Potters Wood Methodist Church in Kingswood, Bristol. Prayer stations were set up around the church to reflect different aspects of new life and the church garden was opened up as a place of quiet reflection. 

Some members spent all day in prayer whereas others chose to stay at the church for just a couple of hours. People who weren't able make it in person were still able to join in by praying at work or at home. The day also attracted visitors from neighbouring churches.

The Revd Josette Crane said: "The idea was to link the signs of God as Creator in spring with the new creative activities in the church. The new activities include a 'Knit and Natter' group; plans for an all-age creative worship service and a banner group that began at Cock Road Methodist Church. There were prayer activities to give thanks for these signs of resurrection in our church and to pray for their growth and outreach. There was also the opportunity to pray for the use of our new Singing the Faith hymn books. The atmosphere was one of peace and tranquillity." 

(Source: Buzz 119)
 

'D-Church' online
From:
 Newcastle District

A Fresh Expression through social media called  'D-church' is exploring spirituality and creating community in an online world. The team facilitating the project has been working together for over a year. They said that the growth of the project has outstripped their expectations. 

Up to 278 people have 'liked' the project's Facebook page, which means they have regular access to the online monthly service. The largest group of people accessing this are in the 35-44 age group. 

Elaine Lindridge, Newcastle District Evangelism Enabler, said: "An example of the project's outreach comes from one of the online gatherings. During the time of prayer, 18 people contributed something to the prayer wall, 155 accessed the prayers and at least 215 saw the prayers. On one occasion the outreach extended to several hundred people at a time! The most popular post reached over 740 people virally. The team is particularly delighted to have made contact with several people who are on the edge of church or faith." 

D-church has become a regular 'meeting' place for some Christians for whom gathered worship is not always easily accessible. While it was always intended to be a virtual meeting, the team is considering how to develop this project in the 'real' world with 'd-church live' gatherings. 

(Source: Buzz 118)

Called to Minister
From:
 Methodist Churches in Paignton

The Revd Dermot Thornberry celebrated his Ordination anniversary at Palace Ave Methodist Church in Paignton. The Chair of the Exeter and Plymouth District, the Revd Pete Pillinger, preached a sermon on "standing up for one's faith in challenging situations".

Charlene Thornberry said: "Pete's sermon was very relevant as Dermot was trained and ordained in South Africa during the height of apartheid and witnessed many situations where only his clerical collar offered some safety from the SA Police and demonstrating youths." 

A piece of music for the occasion, composed by resident musician, Derek Elson, was performed by singers who also sang a jazzy version of the popular song, "I will enter his gates with thanksgiving in my heart". 

Anna Goodchild arranged the church flowers - South African Proteas - and messages from friends and clergy locally and around the world were presented in the form of emails, audio and video links. Hester Pike, Dermot's first circuit steward in South Africa, sent an encouraging, warm and heartfelt message of congratulations. To end the service, Dermot repeated his ordination vows with Pete Pillinger officiating. 

(Source: Buzz 117)

Youth President leads worship
From:
 Brownhills and Willenhall Circuit, West Midlands

The Brownhills and Willenhall Circuit welcomed Methodist Youth President, Hayley Moss, for a weekend of discussion and worship with young people in the West Midlands. Hayley met with young people at Reedswood Methodist Church where she listened to their views about the Methodist Church and took part in a question and answer session.  

She also visited the circuit youth group, Impact, where she led interactive games and a consultation to find out what the Children and Youth team could do for young people like them. School bullying, peer pressure, hormones, fashion, drugs and alcohol were a few of the issues discussed. The young people praised the Church's sense of community but also felt that at that the Church would be more appealing if services weren't so rigid and traditionally set in their ways.

In the evening, Hayley led worship along with District Chair, the Revd John Howard, at Short Heath Methodist Church. The Impact worship band provided the music for the hymns. 

The image above shows three of the Jenga bricks that congregation members were given to write on as a reminder that everyone can fit together to help to build God's Kingdom.

(Source: Buzz 116)

One Small Flock 
From:
 Ashbourne Methodist church in Derbyshire

For several years Ashbourne Methodist church in Derbyshire has been the spiritual home of a flock of sheep called 'One Small Flock' - a cartoon strip made by local preacher Fiona Green. Offering more than just a smile, the sheep have been putting discipleship into practice by appearing in their own calendar. Over £400 has been raised to help support work in St John's School, Taljhari. Ashbourne Churches Together Partnership with the Diocese of Patna in the Church of North India has helped to make this possible. Donations have also been made to Samaritan's Purse.

Fiona Green said: "It's hard to believe that a few sheep on a page can translate into real help for real people. Many have been bought as Christmas gifts and  it's amazing to think that there will be a Christian message on so many walls for a whole year. We sold hard copies and email copies, raising far more than  we ever imagined. Discipleship can manifest in different forms. Once on the kitchen wall, the cartoon is a talking point that can lead to conversations about faith and witness. It can begin the God-talk for you!" 

(Source: Buzz 115)

Churches come together to worship 
From:
 Wotton-under-Edge United Church (Methodist/URC) 

Each advent the Fellowship Group at Wotton-under-Edge United Church (Methodist/URC) invites church members to a supper with an advent theme. 2012, however,  was slightly different. The Catholic Church of Holy Cross had lost their well-loved priest and was feeling the loss of his pastoral care. So Wotton-under-Edge United Church invited their Catholic brothers and sisters to supper on the night of Advent Sunday. 

Ann Revill said: "Pork rolls with apple sauce and a variety of desserts were served at tables set up in the church itself, which was decorated throughout with candles. As ice-breakers, we used pictures of angels culled from old Christmas cards. People chose one they liked and talked to a neighbour about it. We changed places to sit near someone else during the dessert and then the evening moved into a short service of readings and meditation presented by members of both churches. The feeling of fellowship and care for each other across church boundaries was very evident; it was an evening to remember." 

(Source: Buzz 114)

Christmas Day morning café  style 
From: St Thomas' Road Methodist Church, Derby

Last Christmas more than 20 people sat down for a worship breakfast at St Thomas' Road Methodist Church in Derby. The Revd Lindsay Kemp hit on the idea of a breakfast as a festive feast that wouldn't involve too much organisation for the church's mostly older members. 

Jean Parton, church steward, said: "We wanted to offer something that would be acceptable to all ages but particularly to those who might be on their own on Christmas Day. 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 113)

Wild West Worship 
From: Hucclecote Methodist Church, Bristol

A Wild West Worship day organised by Hucclecote Methodist Church's Junction Worship Team went down a storm with the young people of the Bristol District. The worship included games, dvd clips, a youth worker's testimony, a conga and music from Eastington Methodist Church's worship band. Bristol District Chair, the Revd Ward Jones, welcomed the new District Youth Council as they began their year in post. The event attendees had voted earlier in the day for Jessica Chalmers from Castle Cary to be the District Vice-Youth President and for Alice Bayly from Chippenham to be the District Youth President. Alice was presented with the district's historic 'Youth President's Gong'.

The evening saw a "Rodeo Round-up" outside on the church's "Prairie" with Wild West-themed fairground stall games, a Texas Grill barbecue, a Wild West fancy  dress competition won by a walking Native American teepee and a group of cacti, and the very popular Rodeo Bull. The district youth mascot made an appearance  too - a six foot green and yellow lion called Rocky wearing his own cowboy outfit. The Shindig 'n' Showdown finished off the day with energetic line dancing and disco before the emotional farewells. 

Emma Mills, Bristol District youth work enabler, said: "The event's underpinning scripture was Galatians 3:28: 'In Christ, there is no difference between Jew  and Greek, slave and free person, male and female. You are all the same in Christ Jesus'. The message which everyone took away from the day was that no matter who you are, God loves you and you belong to him." 

(Source: Buzz 112)

Prayer Pilgrimage
From: Sale Methodist Circuit, Cheshire

Members of Sale Methodist Circuit in Cheshire visited every church in their circuit as part of a day-long Prayer Pilgrimage to help people focus on prayer during the Connexional year. The pilgrimage began at Sale Moor Church with breakfast followed by a prayer service. The pilgrims then moved on to Trinity Church, Sale, for a series of meditative prayer stations. 

The Revd John Fenner said: "We then headed to Carrington Lane for 'crafty prayers' - prayers that incorporated our artistic skills - before lunching together at The Avenue. In the afternoon, we shared some audio-visual reflections before journeying to Partington to pray in the church garden."

The day ended at the rural Sinderland Chapel where people worshipped in Taizé style (an ecumenical monastic style of worship) and then shared afternoon tea together. There were between 50 and 75 people at most of the sessions. Overall, some 130 to 140 people took part at some point during the day. 

(Source: Buzz 111)

Jigsaw Praise
From: Wokingham Methodist Church

Wokingham Methodist Church is aiming to introduce different styles of worship that will appeal to a broader audience. Their new initiative is a parallel form of worship they are calling "Jigsaw Praise". Sarah Hewinson said: "We don't want to create two separate services so we offer different styles of worship in different parts of our premises at the same  time, using the same theme and readings. We welcome the children and families into our cafe area for craft activities while the rest of the congregation  gathers. From then on we try to keep what happens exciting and different." 

The church has made use of Stagefright, a local Christian drama group, and a visit by Roly the Clown. "At some point during the morning we come together to  make the jigsaw into one big picture," Sarah continued. "It may be  for a recap of the story and a sung blessing in the cafe area or the children and families may come into the church to listen to the Bible story, wonderfully told by our story-teller, reinforcing the fact that no matter where the worship takes place it is all equally valid."

(Source: Buzz 110)

Praise Bus Reaches London 
From:
 Escalls Methodist Chapel, Cornwall

A Praise Bus that toured ahead of the official Olympic procession reached the end of its journey 65 days after leaving Escalls Methodist Chapel in Cornwall. The half open double-decker bus had travelled more than 8,500 miles through England, Scotland and Wales before it finally arrived in London last week. More than 100 musicians performed from the top of the moving bus as it toured the country. Christian-inspired music from solo singers, choirs and bands was heard by around one million people who turned up to line the streets of their towns and villages and welcome the Olympic Torch to the UK.

Christine Bonfield, a member of Escalls Methodist Chapel, had a vision for the Praise Bus last year. She was helped by a team of volunteers who made the Praise Bus happen. "The atmosphere in London was electric; it was absolutely amazing," Christine said. "People were dancing in the street - even police officers were moved by the music. It was so much fun. We had some really fantastic musicians performing on the last stretch, including a brilliant Brazilian band and two great solo artists, Mike Baldwin and Juliette Nasuuna. Some of the musicians said that being on the road was a life-changing experience. Thousands of people photographed the bus as it went around the country."
   
(Source: Buzz 109)

Celebrating God in the ruins of Lesnes Abbey
From:
 Lesnes Abbey in Abbey Wood

On Pentecost Sunday, though there were no visible tongues of fire, the temperature soared and the sun beat down as a crowd of over 100 people gathered to worship God in the picturesque ruins of Lesnes Abbey in Abbey Wood. Leading the worship were the Chair of the Methodist District, the Revd Jenny Impey; the Bishop of Woolwich, the Rt Revd Michael Ipgrave; the Bishop of Rochester, the Rt Revd James Langstaff and local representatives of the Methodist Circuit. 

The Revd Simon Boxall said: "Although it cannot be said that three thousand people were added to their number that day, many passers-by stopped and stared at what may have seemed a strange spectacle, but was in fact an example of a living Church gathering. The Word was clearly proclaimed through the direct reading of Scripture, and the preaching which followed. As the bread was broken, and the wine was poured and shared, there was definitely a sense of God's presence in that ancient place of worship. We were encouraged, as the theme of the Service proclaimed to Go for Gold, in the power of the Spirit."

After the service, there was time to improve the sun tan as everyone shared the picnics they had brought with them. None of those who led the worship had to rush off to other commitments, so there was time for people from the different churches to get to know each other. 

Simon continued: "At the original feeding of the 5,000 there was quite a mess left over, about 12 baskets of food. However, in an important act of witness those who participated in the service picked up all their rubbish, and left the site as clean as when we arrived."

(Source: Buzz 108)

Hallelujah! Churches raise the roof 
From:
 North Herts Circuit in Stevenage

Over 600 Christians from all over Comet Country gathered at Stevenage Arts and Leisure Centre for a major celebration last week. The large congregation was welcomed by the Mayor of Stevenage, Cllr Carol Latif. Following a selection of lively modern songs and dramatised readings, the main address was given by the Revd Dr Mark Wakelin, President Designate of Conference.

Frank Needham, as the North Herts Methodist Circuit steward led the team organising the event. He said: "We have 14 churches and chapels of different sizes in Stevenage, Hitchin, Letchworth and the surrounding villages but this is the first time we have joined together in one morning worship event. Everyone found it very uplifting and we were so pleased that our friends from other denominations came too."

The North Herts Circuit extends from Knebworth in the south to Stotfold and Arlesey in the north, and from Benington in the east to Pirton in the west.

(Source: Buzz 107)

Reconciling Fellowship with Reverence
From:
 Wokingham Methodist Church in Berkshire

The stewards' team from Wokingham Methodist Church met with the Revd Nick Thompson for an away day to think about the practical outworking of their Mission statement to "provide an environment where Christ can be found". Attracting people to worship God and celebrate His love is key to their statement. The stewards were concerned that the buzz of conversation before services could detract from the sense of reverence that is so essential during worship.

John Williams said: "There should be an atmosphere of anticipation before worship, but in reality it so often becomes a time to chat and catch up with people, and people who live on their own need this interaction on Sundays. We resolved to start our worship with a formal moment of quiet. After the minister and choir enter, the duty steward welcomes the congregation, reads a line from the Scripture or from a hymn displayed on the screen and invites everyone to ponder this in silence for a short while. After about 30 seconds, the organist introduces the sung introit. It works wonderfully; people anticipate the silence the moment the choir enters and we all begin to worship with quiet hearts. Visitors from other churches have said what a marvellous idea it is, and that they would try it themselves."


(Source: Buzz 106)

Introducing Singing The Faith
From:
 Drive Methodist Church in Ilford

Some weeks after acquiring the new Methodist hymn book, Singing the Faith, members of the congregation at The Drive Methodist Church, Ilford, were invited to submit requests for hymns to be sung at a special service to welcome the new book.  The response was so great that choirmaster Andrew Taylor had to put together two services, one for new and less familiar hymns and songs and one for the old traditional favourites.  

Diane Foster said: "The first of these services was held recently and the congregation raised the roof with the help of the choir. We sang 13 modern hymns and worship songs, including music and words from different parts of the world.  The choir sang no. 65 "Sing of the Lord's goodness" and during the collection, no. 667 O "Watcher in the wilderness"." 

The junior church also took part with a lovely rendition of no. 42 "O Sing to the Lord".  During the prayers of intercession the congregation sang no. 780 "Stay with me". The service closed with everyone blessing each other singing no. 772 "May the road rise up".

(Source: Buzz 105)

Seven Summer Sundays 
From:
 Great Lumley Methodist Church

Great Lumley Methodist Church started off last summer with a 'Sunbathe and Cocktail Sunday' linked to the temptation story of Jesus in the desert. The congregation and children enjoyed decorating flip-flops and sunglasses and making and drinking fruit cocktails which were shared by the congregation. The excitement grew the following Sunday - 'Candyfloss Sunday. Is your faith just air and sugar?' - where people learned about the wise man and the foolish man, enjoyed eating candyfloss, making cardboard houses and throwing water over them. 

For week three - 'Ice cream Sundae' - the group looked at the story of the woman who put perfume on Jesus' feet. The younger people in the group made "smelly boxes" for everyone in the congregation, as well as eating loads of ice cream. By week four the children and congregation couldn't wait for 'Celebration Sunday' - celebrating being together with a Baptism, communion, family service and, of course, balloons, pinatas, cake and party poppers - no celebration would be complete without them. 

'Picnic Sunday' and the feeding of the 5,000 involved flapping fish competitions and fish-shaped biscuits and loads of jam sandwiches. This was followed by 'Milkshake and Pop Sunday - the calming of the storm'. The children explored the stories of the disciples who were "shaky and popped with stress!". More youngsters came along to the church than on a normal Sunday. The congregation joined in the storm and the boat building and the children enjoyed milkshake and pop drinks. 

The final last week - 'Beach party Sunday' - saw Jesus on the beach after his resurrection. The congregation came dressed for a beach party and barbeque. Joanne Fearn said: "Jesus invited people to breakfast: the best meal of the day! It sets you up for everything else and that's what Jesus will do with us if we say yes to the invitation: set us up for what's to come. The summer was so exciting. We were all looking forward to being there each Sunday. Some of the kids even wanted to delay their parents' holiday plans so they could come to church! It's been fun worshipping Jesus. The preachers rose to the occasion and preached on things such as candyfloss and ice cream and milkshake and pop! People who don't go to church were asking what week was coming next because people were getting excited about the themes. It was wonderful to be part of a church that was excited about coming to worship and about being together!" 

(Source: Buzz 104)

Story of the Magi 
From:
 Wotton-under-Edge, Gloucestershire

This January Wotton-under-Edge church gave around 450 local junior school children an experience of the Epiphany. Members of theWotton churches presented the story of the Magi by inviting the children to go on a journey following the Magi with a star carrier as their guide. The journey began in the observatory and moved on to the desert where the children were visited by a very angry Herod; lit candles of memory or repentance; wrote prayers of thanksgiving and sang songs.

The journey concluded in Bethlehem where Joseph welcomed everyone who came to see Jesus, who was played by a lively one year old clapping his hands in all the right places. After presenting their prayers, the children were urged by an angel not to go back the same way (the teachers did not relish a detour back to school). 

Godfrey Marsland said: "New stunning costumes were made for the event as we needed three sets of identically dressed magi accompanied by three haughty looking camels.  The whole programme was written and devised by Sue Marsland from Wotton United Church and Sue Plant from St Mary's Parish Church."

(Source: Buzz 103)

Chaplaincy at Care Home 
From: Blackpool Circuit

Converting to an MHA Care Home was quite a culture change for the staff of Pennystone Court Care Home, and having a chaplain on the scene was quite an innovation. But by working together, home manager Frances, Chaplain Revd Bev and MHA Chaplaincy Advisor Andrew Norris came up with a team model that others may wish to consider. Bev is a member of the Blackpool Circuit staff and a full-time presbyter with pastoral charge of three Churches, so being chaplain at an MHA Home is not easy to slot in to an already busy schedule.

However, a chaplaincy team approach has been developed whereby Bev leads a team of lay volunteers (who all happen to be local preachers) who share together in the responsibilities of chaplaincy. An act of worship or bible study is held every week, with Bev offering communion every month. Each member of the team offers pastoral support to the staff and residents when they are on-site and the team take part in special events and services during the year.

Worship at Pennystone appears on the Circuit Worship and Preaching Plan, affirming that Pennystone is a part of the Circuit's commitment to mission in the neighbourhood. The chaplaincy team share in both the joys and sorrows of the home.

Notable recent events have been the resident hens' first egg and the baptism of a resident over the age of 70. Bev said: "The baptism was particularly exciting. It took place at the local North Shore Methodist Church. The chaplaincy team were all there and joined the residents' godmothers in promising to continue to help them grow in their faith."

(Source: Buzz 102)

Carols Down The Line
From: Paignton Methodist Church

Imagine 822 people singing carols, drinking tea and coffee and eating hot mince pies as they travel along the South Devon Railway.

The occasion is the annual Carols Down the Line event coordinated by Paignton (Palace Avenue) Methodist Church. Train crew and station staff from South Devon Railway Association enter into the Christmas spirit on board the train as well as at Buckfastleigh, Staverton and Totnes stations. Last year passengers alighted from the train to sing carols on the platforms. Salvation Army bands played for the carol singing with Totnes Town Band.  Plympton Clangers (handbell ringers) delighted folks with their tuneful ringing at Buckfastleigh Station before the train departed. A BBC Radio Devon journalist was also on board talking to passengers and volunteers. 

Carols Down the Line also provided an opportunity to raise money for nominated charities and good causes. There are still a few places left to join in the merriment this year on 6,7 and 8 December (see the website below).  

(Source: Buzz 101)

God and the Bible 
From: Palace Avenue Methodist Church in Paignton

Visitors to a King James Bible celebration were able to reflect on what faith means to them after Palace Avenue Methodist Church in Paignton, Devon, set up a fantastic display. Working from an idea generated by the Revd Dermot Thornberry, a creative team led by Susan Gibb developed visuals, interactive zones and booklets in different parts of the church. The team decorated cereal boxes which became the 66 books of the Bible. They divided the Scripture into seven sections: Genesis to Revelation became Creation, Crisis, Calling, Conversation, Christ, Community and Continuation. The King James Bible display was open to the public three times a day for a week with a tour guide on hand to answer questions and refreshments on offer afterwards. 

The Revd Dermot Thornberry said: "From the comments written in the Visitors Book, the display seems to have been extremely well received as it obviously gave an opportunity to reflect on what our faith means to us." 

The display was so successful that the team decided to keep it up for a few more weeks. It has also formed the basis of sermon material.

(Source: Buzz 100)

Church celebrates 250 years of Methodism in Rotherham
From: Talbot Lane Methodist Church, Rotherham

An innovative way of marking 250 years since the opening of the first Methodist place of worship in Rotherham was the performance of two 'dialogues' called Waves and Storms. The dialogues were written by church member, Ted Ring, and charted the tribulations and successes of William Green, the man who was largely responsible for John Wesley's Methodism gaining a solid foothold in Rotherham. William gathered around him and nurtured a small group of dissenting believers, moulding them into a strong, fervent and dynamic group that built Rotherham's first Methodist house of worship, called The Octagon, in 1761. The present church at Talbot Lane was built on the site of The Octagon, which is pictured here.
The weekend celebrations began with an organ recital with musical items from the 18th and 19th centuries and the Sunday morning worshipping congregation gave thanks for the faith and witness of the early pioneers of Methodism in the town. During Sunday afternoon, 18th century hymns were sung at a special Songs of Praise, attended by the mayor and mayoress. Specially written poems and words of John Wesley were read and in typical Methodist style, ample hospitality and good food was provided for all those who joined in the celebrations.

(Source: Buzz 99)

Congregation shapes worship
From:
 Wokingham Methodist Church, Berkshire

Since September 2010, the Revd Nick Thompson, Deacon Maggie Blake and local preachers at Wokingham Methodist Church have openly invited members of the congregation to help shape the regular 3rd Sunday morning services each month as a way of encouraging people of all ages to engage in worship.

David Lawton reports, "In these services there is an open invitation for different people to participate as we seek to offer a wider range of approaches to worship including drama, meditation, greater use of visual images, music and readings. The format for the services varies somewhat each time and there is different leadership, which includes one member of the Ministry Team. Planning meetings are open to everyone to come along and share ideas about the theme for the service and what form it might take. People contribute in all sorts of ways - some for the first time. In addition, we make full use of our new AV system and in each service we seek to integrate fresh ways of worshipping whilst valuing our Methodist roots and tradition.

"Feedback from all the congregation but especially from those less familiar with church worship, has encouraged the continuation of these services which are evolving in response to the needs of the worshipping community."

(Source: Buzz 98)

Rothwell Bible Readathon
From: Rothwell Methodist Church, Yorkshire

A mammoth effort undertaken at Rothwell Methodist Church to read the whole of the Bible over a weekend, drew together nearly 200 people from the local community and beyond.

As Chrissie Brown reports, " It was hair-raising at times keeping going at all hours and trying to keep to a schedule, but overall - a great success. 197 individuals, young and old, came into our church to take part in the readings of the Bible, and every part of the Bible was read - including all the difficult bits. As well as four councillors on the opening night, classes from five schools in Rothwell and Oulton came, plus a youth group from Cutsyke near Castleford. One couple even travelled some distance from Almondbury, near Huddersfield to take part. The final chapter was read as a group of eight and was videoed: http://youtu.be/WN6d_0wBaro

"A book of signatures was collected, where readers recorded which passages they read and wrote their comments. Many of us were moved, as we read some very profound passages, about God's heart for the world. Our prayer is that it will have inspired many to open their Bibles more often. Nearly £340 has been raised for Bibles for China."

(Source: Buzz 97)

Bath hymnathon results in 310 hymns in 7½ hours
From: Nexus (Walcot) Methodist Church, Bath

Inspired by a recent King James Bible challenge, Mike Renton of Nexus (Walcot) Methodist Church in Bath undertook a hymnathon to raise money for the Southdown Methodist Church and Community Centre Redevelopment Fund.

The Southdown Church and Community Partnership, based on a Methodist initiative, has been working since 1998 to provide caring support to the community of Southdown and Whiteway. The redevelopment will transform the local Methodist church into a modern, multi-purpose church and community centre for the people of the area.

Starting at 11.45am on Sunday 8 May, Mike played all the hymns, carols and religious songs he knows, on the church keyboard. As his sight-reading is rudimentary, he was playing by ear (without music), in keys suitable for untrained voices. Members and visitors were invited to come and worship by singing along, and refreshments were provided.

It took 7½ hours for Mike to play 310 numbers. On Monday morning he was stiff but happy and contributions, so far, total over £2,500. You can see a short video (not 7½ hours) on the Nexus website.

(Source: Buzz 96)

Celebrating 2011, Year of the Bible
From: Market Drayton Methodist Church

Market Drayton Methodist Church is celebrating the year of the Bible in a variety of ways, but by far the most popular has been the Bible School.

We have six schools throughout the year, each running over five weekly sessions. The Revd Peter Davies, recent Old Testament lecturer at Cliff College and Regents College, leads the sessions. Peter is a gifted Bible teacher and has brought the Bible alive in a new way, explaining much of the background and history of the Bible, the characters, and circumstances in which the various parts of the Bible were written. He applies it all in an inspiring and challenging way to the 21st century. At times, up to 70% of the church membership has been involved and because of Peter's skill, the sessions have been accessible to both the experienced Bible student and the beginner.

The Bible schools have been inspirational and have set people talking about the Bible like never before. We are eagerly looking forward to two more series this Autumn.

(Source: Buzz 95)

Celebrating 2011, Year of the Bible
From: Salford Circuit

As part of the Methodist celebration of the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible and the Biblefresh initiative, Conference 2010 resolved that the districts would work collectively to hand write the Bible during the course of 2011.

The Salford Circuit celebrated the anniversary with two events on Saturday 26 March. At St Paul's Methodist Church, Irlam, the circuit took part in the Connexional Handwritten Bible project during a coffee morning. The church was full for the event with people waiting their turn to add their handwritten verses. On display were various versions of the Bible together with two family Bibles, each at least 100 years old.

At the same time, at Patricroft Methodist Church, Cath Owen, a local preacher, was being sponsored to read the New Testament. A group were there to support her and share in the readings, some of which were in French and Russian.

More encouraging reports, ideas and resources to help your church or circuit celebrate this special Year of the Bible can be found on the Deepening Discipleship website.

(Source: Buzz 94)

Seven weeks of Lent
From: Exeter, Devon

Thinking about Jesus fasting in the wilderness, Jon Curtis, Venture fx pioneer working for the Methodist Church in Exeter, has decided to focus each week of Lent on a different kind of 21st century privilege, and avoid it for that week, attempting to reconsider the values in his life.

Week 1 - No money Reflecting on how in earlier times, people traded skills and goods with each other, Jon has attempted to spend no money, and work in return for food and goods, as well as travelling without cost, either through self-propelling, or for longer journeys, hitch-hiking. Suggestions: use no credit cards during Lent and don't buy anything that isn't a necessity.

Week 2 - No technology Jon acknowledges the immeasurable advantages of modern technology but also makes the point that some aspects impinge on our lives. He turned off his mobile phone, computer, mp3 player, xbox and internet and wrote, mixed tapes and played board games. Suggestions: give up using facebook over Lent and write a letter to someone.

Week 3 - No chain stores Confronted by enormous chain stores and supermarkets which change the face of a locality by shifting the focus of towns to giant out-of-town shopping sites, Jon highlights the effects of desolate town centres and the impact on small local businesses. During Lent he is specifically hunting out the smallest retail outlets. Suggestions: support a different independent store for the seven weeks of Lent, don't shop anywhere that you have to drive to and get the milkman to deliver.

Week 4 - No carbon Making every effort to reduce his carbon footprint, Jon is walking, cycling and rowing (yes, rowing) everywhere, but other suggestions he makes are giving up the car and taking public transport for short journeys, giving others a lift for longer journeys and dusting off the push bike.

Week 5 - Voluntary work Believing in the Big Society and that voluntary work is absolutely necessary, Jon thinks that many crucial facilities wouldn't run if it wasn't for people volunteering in churches, community centres, sports clubs etc." Why not offer to help with a community project or work in a charity shop? You will be amazed by the impact of one extra volunteer," he says.

Week 6 - Veganism "There are very good reasons for not eating meat," says Jon. There is not enough room in the world for everyone to eat meat at the current rate that we consume it in the UK. As developing nations become wealthier, the demand will increase, and land needed for forests will be turned into pasture. Jon is going to cook a vegan meal for 15 friends and suggests choosing a day this week not to eat meat.

Week 7 - Monastic life Monasticism involves all sorts of traditions. Jon will be fasting during daylight hours, praying three times a day in various chapels around the city, reading extensively from the Bible, not speaking on certain days, and finally spending some time walking to a particular destination.

What are you, your church or circuit doing this Lent?

(Source: Buzz 93)

Prayer at the heart of a shopping centre
From: Andover, Kennet and Test Valley Circuit

Reading a magazine article about Pentecost resources, led to Deacon Shirley Mackintosh taking over empty premises in her local shopping centre and turning them into a place of interactive prayer for six weeks, with a wonderful response from the community.

Shirley reports that she followed up the magazine article and discovered the 'Orison' website. Orison means prayer, and after watching their short promotional DVD, where one young boy said 'it helped me to think about all the stuff that's going on in my family at the moment', she knew that this was something she wanted to offer.

With help from The Grassroots Trust (the charity behind Orison), a circuit budget of £2,000 and a district grant of £1,000, plus the fabulous opportunity to host Orison in the local shopping centre, where Shirley is the chaplain, the shop opened on 18 January and for the first 90 minutes around 40 people walked through the door, 99% of these were teenagers.

So what was on offer?
There were six 'zones' each containing an opportunity for reflection or activity which were set within and around three gazebos with low-voltage lighting to create a quiet contemplative atmosphere.

  • A large area of lining paper with the invitation: 'If I could ask God one question…' Great for people who like graffiti!
  • Magnadoodles - a modern take on 'wiping the slate clean': think about any regrets you may have, write or draw them, and then offer them to God. Pull the lever down and watch them disappear.
  • Two poster-size photos of hands: Isaiah 49:16 'See I have engraved your name on the palm of my hand' an opportunity to write your name on God's hand (these are specially made whiteboards).
  • The ultimate 'F' word = Forgiveness. The opportunity to think through some of the 'stuff' we carry, drop a vitamin tablet (given on arrival) in one of three water containers and watch it effervesce. This is a visual demonstration of how negative feelings can be disolved.
  • Watch and touch a plasma ball: could it be that God is reaching out to us?
  • Extra-large map of the world - what are the issues facing us today?
  • Opportunity to write or draw a prayer on a coloured post-card and peg it to the camouflage net.
  • Sit and relax around the bubble-tube: where are you on your journey through life; invitation to write or draw your hopes and dreams on a post-it note and stick it to the bubble tube - the imagery is of the bubbles and prayers finding their way to God.

"The response was amazing", said Shirley. "We have seen some children coming back several times, bringing friends with them. Adults have been visibly moved by the experience, even self-confessed atheists saying, 'Well, it makes you think!'

Poignantly, regrets on the magnadoodles, which hadn't been wiped out: 'Sorry I had an abortion', 'Sorry I shoplifted.' Two young women in tears as the grief they were carrying surfaced: they had both suffered miscarriages - I was able to pray with them.

As a follow-on, we are offering The Essence Course and are looking to Phase 2, working with local schools. We have a junior school wanting to use Orison as a project for Year 4, with several more enquiries to be followed up. I am currently drawing together a schools' ministry team from across the town's churches.

Orison, which on the surface seems so insignificant: a few fairy lights, a selection of gadgets, post cards and post-its, pens and paper - but when offered to God in faith, has the potential to touch people at their place of need."

(Source: Buzz 92) 

New cross for church tower unites village
From: Burton Joyce Methodist Church, Nottingham East Circuit

"For several years the local council put a large illuminated cross on our church tower as part of the Christmas decorations for the village. It shone down Main Street and was an important marker for Advent and Christmas", reports Dinah Dudley of Burton Joyce Methodist Church.  Eventually, the old cross became too decrepit and the council could not afford a replacement so our very small, ageing congregation decided that we had to raise the £1,000 necessary to replace it. We thought it would be difficult but within three months we had our £1,000. Donations were received, from the very small to the quite large, from many diverse members of the village community for whom the cross, with its message, was enormously important, even though church is not. A complete stranger thrust £40 into my hand and said "that cross - my family think it's so important!" and rushed off before I could thank him properly.  Our cross shone out from the first Sunday in Advent and throughout the Christmas period and, as it is now a permanent installation, we can use it for Easter or at other times. We feel so blessed by this and have learned a great deal from the whole experience. 

(Source: Buzz 90)

'Carols Down the Line' on the South Devon Railway
From: Paignton (Palace Avenue) Methodist Church, Plymouth and Exeter District

Last December, over three evenings, 831 passengers were able to sing Christmas Carols, enjoy hot mince pies and tea/coffee, whilst raising more than £4,500 for charity, as they travelled the South Devon Railway, all thanks to a joint initiative by Paignton (Palace Avenue) Methodist Church and South Devon Railway (SDRA).

Stations were beautifully decorated, as was the train, with SDRA volunteers at Buckfastleigh, Totnes and Staverton entering into the spirit of the occasion with passengers who got off the train to sing carols on the platforms. Salvation Army bands played for the carol singing on two evenings and Totnes Town Band played for the third. Plympton Clangers (handbell ringers) delighted everyone with their tuneful ringing at Buckfastleigh Station. BBC 'Spotlight' staff travelled on the train, filming and talking to passengers and volunteers, and the film was broadcast several times on television the following day.

This year Carols Down the Line will be sung on Tuesday 7 to Thursday 9 December when steam hauled trains will depart from Buckfastleigh Station at 7.30pm. Ticket cost is £8.50 per person, which includes refreshments, but must be booked in advance by contacting David whose contact information is below.

(Source: Buzz 89) 

Celebrating a bumper harvest of creativity
From: Bethesda Church, Cheltenham, Bristol District

This year we decided to celebrate harvest over the course of a weekend and have never seen so many people coming into the church and enjoying all the activities on offer.

We invited members and anyone connected with the church in any way to bring their art or craft work and anything else that celebrated creativity. What a fantastic response we had. There was a poetry workshop and readings, have-a-go at painting, marbling, junk sculpture, knitting, making a harvest tree and, of course, excellent catering and a cake stall. One member who has a prize-winning garden brought photos, as he could not easily bring the results of his efforts!

We had portraits taken by a congregation member and showed a DVD entitled 'Memories of Bethesda' with the older members recalling events as far back as pre-war times. We had quizzes in the run-up, to maintain people's interest, with the results announced on the Saturday. We also had Punch and Judy performances and a bouncy castle in the car park.

The sculpture, quilting, paintings and photographs were displayed in the church and there was just room for the packed congregation to join in Sunday's worship. Our choir concluded the weekend with a performance of the Roger Jones musical, 'Saints Alive'.

The weekend was a great way to celebrate a harvest of creativity and one that we will remember for a long time.

(Source: Buzz 88) 

Soup & Stay and Tea & Company trip off the tongue in Sedbergh
From: New Street Methodist Church, Sedbergh    

We are about to restart our monthly Soup & Stay afternoons following a short break for summer. Volunteers make wonderful home-made soups which are served with rolls and tea/coffee between 12noon and 1pm. The afternoon is spent on various activities, crafts and games and the most popular session is knitting and a lot of natter. We finish around 3pm with tea and biscuits. No charge is made for the session. We try to do something different for the last session in the summer and the photo shows us touring a local farm in an unusual mode of transport!

Our Tea & Company sessions have also been very popular. These began as a one-off Tea & Carols event around Christmas 2007, which people enjoyed and urged us to continue. The winning format has proved to be a session spent singing favourite hymns, enjoying readings, both serious and more frivolous ones, and a good spread of food at teatime. Transport is provided, if requested. Again there is no charge but those attending can make a donation and collections up to £100 have been given to Haiti relief, MRDF and Action for Children.

(Source: Buzz 87) 

A COG slog around Barrow
From: South West Cumbria Circuit and Furness URC Pastorate

Each year our Community Outreach Group (COG) holds a COG Slog (walk) in the vicinity of a particular church in the circuit, followed by a faith tea and service, the idea being to meet with friends throughout the area. The event is advertised in the circuit and throughout the local communities to encourage non church goers to come along too.

This year it was the turn of Hartington Street Methodist Church, Barrow, and 15 people enjoyed the two mile walk which began at the church and led to the Dock Museum, Channelside and the Slag Heap (which is comprised of waste materials left over from the smelting processes of iron and steel). This is a reclaimed area which was once Barrow Iron and Steel Works. There were great views of the Isle of Man, Black Combe, (Millom), the hills of the Lake District and Piel Island en route and the walk ended with feeding ducks on a nearby pond.

Back at the church another 20 adults and children arrived to share in a faith tea with the walkers. We felt blessed to be able to witness to the community as 50 people, including strangers, attended our first open air service, held on land adjoining the church. The land had been derelict for many years but was recently landscaped for us by the Council. The lively service, with the Good Samaritan as its theme, included readings, a sketch, a five minute talk, modern choruses and traditional hymns led by our music group, Pew2.

It was a wonderful day of fellowship and encouragement for the churches in the circuit as we go forward in faith to serve our communities.

(Source: Buzz 86)
 

Worshipping God through Jazz
From: The Moseley Road and Sparkhill Circuit 

After being widely advertised in the circuit and district, the first Jazz Church gathering took place on Sunday 20 June 2010 at Shirley Methodist Church. The service was well attended and the congregation enjoyed a mixture of traditional hymns and modern choruses arranged in a jazz style supported by the Jazz Church band with Laura and Themba on vocals, Adam on keys and Steph on drums.

Using speech and live music, Adam and Jayne unpicked the "jazz factor" metaphor for living the Christian life in light of the vision of the kingdom, encouraging people to have that same biblical vision of a just world or new creation as they thought about their own mission and ministry.

The buzz after the service in the coffee shop and all round the church was exciting as people discussed the issues raised in the service and began looking forward to the next Jazz Church on 17 October.

(Source: Buzz 85)  

Colourful celebrations mark 120th church anniversary
From: Dersingham Methodist Church, Hunstanton Circuit

'A Book of Many Colours' was the theme for a flower festival marking the 120th anniversary of Dersingham Methodist Church. The twelve arrangements depicted Bible passages and events in which different colours are mentioned. "The flowers and words reminded us of the wonderful variety and beauty of God's creation", reports church member, Elizabeth Batstone.

"We were pleased to have a colourful picture display from the year 5 children from St George's Junior School, Dersingham, who also opened the flower festival on Thursday morning with several songs about colours. The children of Dersingham Infant and Nursery School drew pictures and made models to illustrate the Feeding of the Five Thousand and the colour green. They also entertained us with singing on Friday morning.

The church hall was very busy with people enjoying coffee, lunch, tea, as well as the stalls - cards, Christian books, jewellery, bric-a-brac, cakes and plants. Among the complimentary comments received was one that read; 'you can feel the fellowship and love in this church'. We were blessed with a great team of helpers who enjoyed the fun and fellowship, as well as the hard work, and who met for prayers each morning.

The Sunday morning service was led by our minister, the Revd Kim Nally, and in the evening we met at Hunstanton Methodist Church for a circuit service. Some of our members joined the West Norfolk Circuit choir for a performance of the Paul Field musical, 'Hopes and Dreams', with the offering for the Leaders of Worship and Preacher's Trust (LWPT).

The flower festival raised £2,340 which has been divided equally between The Ocean Stars Trust, Sri Lanka, who work in areas devastated by war and the tsunami; the Hope Centre project in Straupe, Latvia, part of the Methodist Church of Latvia, where the women's hostel supports unmarried mothers and their children; and our own church funds to purchase copies of Complete Mission Praise.

At the end of the festival we were tired but delighted to have met so many people and shared God's riches of colour and creation."

(Source: Buzz 84)
 

Sell-out performances for biblical musicals
From: Totland Methodist Church, West Wight Circuit

"We are part of a group of 11 small churches from Methodist, Anglican, Baptist, Roman Catholic and United Reformed traditions, working extremely well together as Churches Together in West Wight," reports Doreen Dace of Totland Methodist Church.

For the past two years more than 70 people aged from 10 to over 80, drawn from our churches and the local community, have joined together to perform biblical musicals. Last year we performed 'While Shepherds Watched' and this year 'From Pharaoh to Freedom' - both written by Roger Jones. Productions involve dancers, actors, musicians, singers, costume makers, programme and poster designers, lighting engineers, scenery builders and choreographers.

The impact of these productions has been absolutely amazing. Many of those involved have little regular connection with church but there are many opportunities to have meaningful conversations and many lasting friendships have been formed. The productions have been total sell-outs, with over 100 in the audience at each performance.

Family, friends and many people from the local community and beyond the Isle of Wight come together to hear and enjoy the important message of these wonderful Bible stories."

(Source: Buzz 83)
 

Easter Trail united villagers
From Skelmanthorpe Methodist Church, Denby Dale & Clayton West Circuit 

The picturesque village of Skelmanthorpe was the setting for our hugely enjoyable Easter trail with an enthusiastic band of organisers managing to get the whole community on board. Having successfully cajoled all 43 of our village shops and pubs to display eye-catching cards in their windows detailing the moving Easter story, local families flocked to join in.

Everyone had a fantastic time racking their brains to find answers to our fun-packed Easter quiz. Up for grabs were traditional prizes, generously donated by the local Co-Op, including yummy Easter eggs and, for the runners up, deliciously gooey mini creme eggs. Seven-year-old Edward Sephton, along with Lois Chapman, also seven, were joint winners of the first prize.

Our deacon, Jane Paine, said: "I was delighted that every one of the shops and businesses in the village wanted to be involved with this venture. It was a fun way to communicate the Easter Story to people who otherwise wouldn't hear it. Families enjoyed the opportunity to spend time together in the Easter holidays and we were glad to be able support our local businesses, bringing them extra custom at this economically difficult time."

(Source: Buzz 82) 

Deafness is no barrier to worship in Jersey
From Georgetown Methodist Church, Jersey Circuit

Deaf Church has opened its doors at Georgetown Methodist Church in the parish of St Saviour on Jersey, the most southerly of the Channel Islands. For several years some of our worship has been signed in British Sign Language (BSL) for the hard of hearing, but this was not really meeting the worship needs of some of our profoundly deaf members and friends.
 

One of our members, Pat Bougeard, felt a call to preach for the deaf community and so a small team got together to bring Pat's call to fruition. On the first Sunday in Lent we held a very moving and inspirational evening act of worship with communion on the theme of Going on a Journey. A congregation of nearly 40 joined us, some profoundly deaf, some hard of hearing and some hearing. Before worship began Pat taught the congregation some very simple signs so that all could say 'amen' in sign language, sign a chorus to a hymn and a prayer response. All of the worship was signed and also screened, with loads of pictures and items placed on the communion table as visual reminders. There was music and there was silence, there was singing and there was simply 'space'. For those who couldn't understand sign language or lip read there were words on the screen and voice-overs were provided.

A very warm welcome was felt by visitors and friends and everyone agreed this was a good start to what we hope will become a regular monthly worship style. Our Deaf Worship is also particularly helpful for those who appreciate a different style of worship and for children, as there is lots of visual and sensual stimuli and worship is shorter. For those who find the pace of 21st century life somewhat hectic, Deaf Worship is a little oasis of calm in the midst of it.

One comment from a hearing member of the congregation was this:
"I found it very moving, emotional and an inspiring time. I felt the atmosphere created was excellent and everyone seemed totally involved. The pace of the service and the silences and presentations were all spot-on and such a contrast to that to which we have become accustomed, where all is done at pace. It was an impressive start to a new ministry amongst new friends for many of us."

Do let any deaf or hard of hearing members of your churches know that if they are visiting Jersey a warm welcome awaits them at Georgetown. If they are holidaying on Jersey and would like to contact us beforehand, we can do our best to ensure that at least some of the worship at Georgetown is BSL translated for them, even if Deaf Worship is not in itself planned for that day, or if they contact us before booking a holiday we can tell them of future Deaf Worship dates.

Our next Deaf Worship services are planned for Easter Sunday evening and Pentecost Sunday evening, both at 6.30pm.

(Source: Buzz 81) 

From Redhill Methodist Church, Redhill and East Grinstead Circuit
A very special Confirmation Service

At Redhill Methodist Church on Sunday 17 January, 33 new members were confirmed at the morning service by the church minister, Revd Thurairajah Samuel (Sam) and the Revd Sheila Foreman (vice chair of district) and 3 members were transferred from other churches. "It was a tonic for us all to share in such a service, particularly as at least half of them were young people. It was a tremendous experience to be refreshed by the enthusiasm of new members, while all of us were encouraged by Sheila Foreman to reflect again on what our membership of the body of Christ means in terms of faith, prayer and service", said Maureen Edwards, a Redhill pastoral leader.

Redhill Methodist Church has a wonderfully cosmopolitan congregation. Those who came to be confirmed were from Britain, Indonesia, Malaysia and Pakistan and those transferred from other churches came from Britain, New Zealand and Nigeria.

"It has been a blessing and an immense privilege over recent years to be part of a church that is constantly renewed and enriched by the vitality, challenges and insights Christians bring to us from other parts of the world, encouraged and led now by a Sri Lankan minister", concluded Maureen.

(Source: Buzz 80)

From Trinity Wallsend Methodist Church, Tyne and Wear Circuit
Carol Service crosses continents

"Trinity Wallsend church steward, Mrs Margaret Storey, does sterling work for the church and she also works with deprived children in Nicaragua, the poorest country in Central America, where she volunteers as part of SIFT (Seed International Fund Trust)" explains fellow church steward, Alan Barker. "Margaret divides her time between Nicaragua and the UK but really misses her family and friends when she is in Nicaragua, where she was over Christmas, so Trinity Wallsend held a Carol Service with a difference.

One modern resource that Margaret has in Nicaragua is her lap top and use of a broadband connection. It didn't take us long to realise that we could use a lap top and talk to Margaret with a free video link through Skype. As we use a digital projection system for our hymns we decided to put Margaret's video image on the big screen and rig up a web cam so that she could see the congregation.

Revd Frank Sykes was conducting the service and although he is possibly the most senior serving minister in our circuit (having retired at least once) he is also the most technically savvy, and never afraid to try anything new. So part way through the Carol Service we rang Margaret through the lap top and 'hey presto' she appeared on the projection screen. As her family was sitting in the front row it was difficult for Margaret not to get too emotional but she took part in the service for about 10 minutes, giving a quick run-down of what she was doing and chatted with members of the congregation. Everyone thought that this worked very well and we were thrilled to be able to speak to our church steward and have her take part in the service. We wondered if this type of service was a first - it was certainly a first for Wallsend Trinity Methodist Church!

It's amazing that the technology we see every day on our televisions is equally available to us in the church. In real terms it's not expensive. We already had all the equipment to project hymns etc. and there is a wireless broadband in the church, so all we had to find (borrow) was a web cam and some USB cables.

Let's not be frightened of technology. It may baffle some of us but there is usually someone around who can magic a few wires together. Where appropriate, let's get up to date and use it to enhance our worship. After all, the Lord provided it for us to use."

(Source: Buzz 79)

From Mount Charles Methodist Church, St Austell Circuit
Praying for peace

Hands Up for Peace was the theme for the third commemoration of the United Nations International Day of Prayer for Peace held at Mount Charles Methodist Church, St Austell, Cornwall. Outside the church a banner was displayed with the letters of 'Hands Up for Peace' made up of cut outs of people's hands with peace prayers and peace messages written on them. Inside the church prayers were said continuously by a constantly changing congregation that included worshippers from at least 15 different local Christian groups. Every hour prayers were briefly led by a representative of one of the local congregations, and local organists played throughout the day.

(Source: Buzz 78)

From Abergavenny Circuit
Abergavenny church adds a special ingredient to town's food festival

For the sixth year in succession Abergavenny Methodist Church joined in the town's food festival in September by celebrating harvest with a flower festival. The church raised over £1400 for the hospital that the Methodist Church Kenya runs at Maua. This is a hospital that the Methodist Church in Britain helps to resource through our partner church. Gifts such as Abergavenny's sent via the World Mission Fund enable this vital work in Kenya to develop.

The vision for this came in 2003 when a few of the church members attended the food festival and wondered why the church was celebrating harvest three weeks later. Wouldn't it be better to co-ordinate the two events? It was quickly realized that the church was ideally placed, being opposite a large car park, and half way between two of the main venues.

The aim was to present the word of God through the medium of flower arrangements and to draw people into the church, perhaps for the first time. However, a spin-off has been that over the years a great deal of money has been raised for Christian charities.

As well as the flowers, the church hall also became the focus of great activity. From the time the doors opened at 9.30am until they closed at 5.30pm, there was a constant stream of people looking for food, which the church was happy to supply.

During the preparation of both flowers and food, there was a great deal of laughter and sharing. Although exhausted by the end of the weekend everyone went home feeling very happy and contented knowing the job had been well done.

(Source: Buzz 77)

From the Blackheath and Halesown Circuit
Prayer, preparation and a personal invitation packs the pews

Harvest Festival is perhaps not the most obvious choice for an Invitation Sunday in an urban area - but it worked. Central Methodist Church, Blackheath, was packed full, with children squeezed three to two on the chairs. Materials from MRDF and Tear Fund on PowerPoint added to a colourful and aromatic atmosphere as children and adults brought gifts of produce to the table. Songs and hymns, contemporary and traditional, expressed our praise. There was an activity for young children while everyone else took part in a quiz and then there was a short invitation to faith.

A quarter of both the morning and evening congregations had not been in worship in any church for a number of years, if ever. Worship was followed by refreshments and many people, including newcomers, stayed.

The success of this outreach event was due to preparation, prayer and the involvement of a number of people. Leaflets were given personally by church members to friends, neighbours, colleagues or family with an assurance that the inviter would be present to welcome their guests. Most notably, June Connaughton, a local preacher for more than forty years, visited every group that meets on church premises, including a number of non-church organizations.

(Source: Buzz 76)

From York South Circuit
Acomb Summerfest

On 21 June 2009, ten local congregations of Acomb joined together to share in an open-air service. Over 300 Methodists, Anglicans, Catholics, Baptists, Quakers, together with the Gateway and Ark churches, as well as local residents, put aside worship differences to unite in a time of worship, prayer and fellowship on a scorching hot Summer's day.

Worship was led by Godfrey Birtill, a musician, song writer and worship leader and the preacher was the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu. Following the service everyone enjoyed a barbeque and activities were arranged for the children.

Steve Redman of the Ark Church, one of the main organisers, said after the event: "The day was met by fantastic local support and public response and this is the first time in history these ten churches have stopped their meetings and all come together - and to such a fantastic result. The crowd loved Archbishop Sentamu - he really is popular and lots of people say they like to see him in person. He got everyone involved and spirits were really high. It was meant to be a one-off event but afterwards I was inundated with people coming up to me saying "Right Steve, let's plan next year", so it definitely looks like this could be an annual event."


(Source: Buzz 75) 

From the Somerset Mission Circuit
Communion in Trafalgar Square, London

As part of Antony Gormley's 'One & Other' project I secured an hour on Trafalgar Square's Fourth Plinth. The artist had said in his publicity that he wanted to investigate the connection between people. I believe that connection between God, worshippers and the world is experienced most acutely in Holy Communion. Our hope was to create a sacred space where spiritual seekers could approach, 'taste and see' without commitment and perhaps meet with God in this 'converting ordinance'.

So we gathered over 100 friends and supporters from all over the country and all church backgrounds and whilst I led worship from the plinth a fellow minister presided at communion. Meanwhile our friends distributed the elements amongst themselves and those commuters and tourists who felt drawn to what we were doing.

We believe that we shared with around 200 communicants during the hour, talked to many who came and heard positive comments including an expressed intention to 'perhaps give church another go'.


(Source: Buzz 74)

From The New Room, Bristol and South Gloucestershire Circuit
How better to mark Wesley Day than at the world's oldest Methodist chapel on a blissfully sunny day?

The New Room in Bristol, where John Wesley and the early Methodists preached, was the fitting setting for our celebrations.

We kicked off with traditional early morning Communion, followed by an energy-boosting breakfast and then later a Wesley-themed afternoon tour. Amongst the attractions were Charles Wesley's family home and St James Priory - the parish church that John and Charles Wesley considered their own.

(Source: Buzz 73)

From Isle of Man Circuit, Isle of Man
A stunning beach location, bountiful sunshine and cool, clear, shimmery sea - that was the idyllic setting for our multi-denominational open air baptism on the Isle of Man on a crisp Easter Sunday. Robert Paterson, Church of England Bishop of Sodor and Man, presided over 25 baptisms of, amongst others, Methodists, Baptists and Anglicans at Peel on the west coast of the beautiful island.

A crowd of around 2,000 people gathered on the golden sands to watch the ritual immersing of adults, babies and children into the translucent ocean, marking their admittance into the Christian Church. In an area steeped in Christian tradition, it was great to see all the denominations coming together to take part in this most spiritual and atmospheric of occasions.

Our reverend, David Shirtliff said, "It was a tremendous event, wonderful atmosphere, great sense of Christian unity - and, though the sea was cold, the sun shone!"

(Source: Buzz 72)

The day was topped off by a Songs of Praise service with the New Room Singers leading the musical charge. Over 100 people came to belt out hymns by Wesley and the 'Messiah' composer, Handel, whose death 250 years ago was also commemorated.

Welcoming around 60 members through our doors, including a good sprinkling of youngsters, we split the church up into seven colour-coded zones. Each represented aspects of church life from youth and young families to a creative zone where all ages had fun expressing themselves by drawing pictures, writing poems and making prayer doves.

Those in a more reflective mood selected the 'playing my part' zone, skimming pebbles across a pool of cool water as they contemplated their own roles in the church.

The fruitful two days gave us food for thought, including the realisation that we must do more to encourage men into the church. But happily we found that our work with children and young families, such as our 'Mums & Tots' group and informal family worship services, were much valued.

(Source: Buzz 71)
 
From Crowle Methodist Church, North Lincs
A charming Edwardian church in North Lincolnshire has been given a new lease of life following a spectacular £100,000 facelift after we raised cash from the sale of our old church hall.

We celebrated the striking renovation in style at a packed service in November to mark the lovingly-restored building's long-awaited re-opening.

Entertainment was provided by the Miniature Heroes, our youth group, who performed a play about the church's history to an approving crowd.

The incredible transformation was brought about by three years of hard graft accompanied by gargantuan helpings of community spirit. Our treasured 1904 church is now spacious and adaptable, whilst cleverly retaining its original charm and character.

We are particularly proud of our centrepiece - a stunning timber pulpit beneath an impressive pipe organ. There is also now a pretty terrace. The green-fingered amongst us intend to get busy soon designing a sensory garden which, we hope, will be bursting with sweet-smelling perfumed flowers.

(Source: Buzz 68)

From Glen Methodist Church, Great Glen, Leicestershire
'Noah's Arky Arky' was just one of the songs sung by our children at the first pet service to be held in Great Glen. Altogether, 55 people brought 28 pets to Glen Methodist Church to celebrate National Pet Month and to raise money for local animal charities.

'Pets' included a cow and her calves, a cade lamb, a tortoise, a goldfish, rabbits, guinea pigs and many different kinds of dogs. Local vet Dr Adetunji Jolaosho joined in the service and spoke to us about his life as a vet. Now set to become an annual event, it celebrated responsible animal care and reflected on what animals can teach us about being kind and caring for others.

(Source: Buzz 63) 

From Christchurch Methodist Anglican Partnership, Clevedon, North Somerset 
"It was like a warm bath." This was what a worshipper said as they left one of our quarterly Taizé experiences. The Taizé style of worship includes chanting, contemplation, Scripture, prayer, silence and quiet reflection - allowing people to 'sense the presence' of God. Worshippers often leave with an overwhelming sense of peace after being 'marinated' in the love of God!

It is a real privilege to allow the Holy Spirit to lead us each time we prepare the service, and we know that the 'Harmony' group will be at the core of the chanting.

63 people attended the last Taizé service so if you have never tried it out why not come along on 30 June, 31 August or 30 November, or perhaps get in touch for information for your church.

God's blessings come to us in many different ways. 

(Source: Buzz 62)

From Stockton Heath Methodist Church, Warrington Circuit 
All sorts of God's creatures came to be blessed at this year's "Blessing of the Animals" service. The church was packed with dogs, cats, rabbits and their owners and we had a presentation from the Cheshire Dogs' Home and treats provided by the local pet shop. The theme of the service was taken from Jesus' words - "Five sparrows are sold for just two pence, but God does not forget one of them" and the purpose was to allow pet owners to thank God for the companionship of their animals and the joy they bring.

The prayers, readings and hymns focussed on the animal kingdom and at the end of the service each animal was given a blessing by the minister and local preacher. In all this activity there was not one growl - just plenty of happy barking... and one little mishap!

(Source: Buzz 61)

From St John's Episcopal / Methodist Partnership, Dumfries
The Methodist Church in Dumfries closed over 25 years ago. Now it is back and part of St John's Scottish Episcopal Church. This arrangement became formalised by the signing of a covenant between the Diocese of Glasgow and Galloway and the Glasgow Methodist Circuit.

We recently held a 'Big Sing' to commemorate the tercentenary of the birth of Charles Wesley. Sixteen local churches sang nine Wesley hymns with about 400 people present altogether. A big and glorious sound was made! It was a truly joyful occasion and a sign to the wider Church in Scotland of a way of working together for the future.
Email contact : 
(Source: Buzz 59)

From Seacroft Methodist Church, Leeds
We recently celebrated Harvest Festival by having a café-style service instead of our normal morning worship. Members of the local Anglican church and other friends joined with us for coffee and cakes and we looked at pictures via PowerPoint and read poems and narrations celebrating God's greatness. Visitors enjoyed it so much they were loath to go home, so refreshments continued to be served well after worship had ended!

(Source: Buzz 59)

From Heath Church, Runcorn
Around 70 people from different denominations and churches took part in 'Praise in the Park' - a song-filled Sunday afternoon led by a band of young adults and choir members. With the encouragement of park wardens and the local council our Worship Consultation group organised the event to be held around a recently renovated bandstand in the local park. This summer it was a beautifully hot day and refreshments were served by the Friends of Runcorn Hill.

(Source: Buzz 58)

From Grove Methodist Church, Horsforth, Leeds
One Sunday in September, because our Scouts and their families were away at camp celebrating the centenary of Scouting, we took our Family and Parade Service to them! About 150 members of our congregation joined the 50 already there, and even with the damp weather, we held our service on folding chairs in the great outdoors. It was a wonderful opportunity for us to strengthen the ties between the Scout group and our church. After the service we served tea and coffee - from billy cans of course!
E-mail contact : Rev. Greg Haynes 
(Source: Buzz 57)

From Lincoln North Circuit
Despite the awful weather one Sunday recently, members of our church took a trip to Sutton and baptised five people in the North Sea. Just before this, we had an open-air service under the shelter of a local café (with the owner's permission of course!) After the minister had preached to the assembled congregation, a local lad came up wanting to confess his sins and give his life to Christ. We were able to help him there and then. What a wonderful encouragement!

(Source: Buzz 56)

From Bridlington Circuit
On 12 August we are holding a service on board the Yorkshire Belle boat. We will be having a one hour commentary on the trip out and then a Praise Party at sea before fish and chips on the harbourside. We already have a waiting list of 30 people!

(Source: Buzz 55)

From Darley Abbey, Derby Derwent Mission Circuit
We put tables in the church with tools and materials for making Christingles, and chairs all around. Everyone made their own, and helped each other if needed. The worship leader explained the meaning of each element of the Christingle in turn, then we made that element and sang an appropriate carol. We finished by turning out the lights and lighting the candles. It was easy to prepare, and was an enjoyable and safe way for all ages to share in the service. 

(Source: Buzz 54)

From Harrow and Hillingdon, London District
We're on the 3rd edition of our Circuit Worship Directory.  We're a widespread and culturally diverse circuit, and we feel it's vital to ensure all involved in worship know enough about each other.  The 'Who's who' section covers 10 ministers, 36 LPs and 12 worship leaders - including (if they're willing) backgrounds, interests and motivation.  It makes fascinating reading.  The 'Worship details' section gives info about 17 different churches - location, how they organise worship and so on.  Ask for a copy if you wish!

(Source: Buzz 52)

From Christchurch, Shepshed, Leicestershire
We're just completing 3 years of WoW (Wednesdays) - non- liturgical worship, 60-90 minutes, planned by a group of 6-8 members, because trying to mix contemporary and traditional styles in a church serving predominantly local/traditional members wasn't working.  We get 30-40 people, about 50:50 between our own congregation and the other churches in our town.  Every service includes sketches/drama, experiential items, discussion, testimony and images.

(Source: Buzz 51)

From Park Avenue, Northampton
For the past 2 years, we've held a service with pets and their owners, recognising the importance of the relationships people have with their animals - and of course the fact that all creatures are part of God's creation, for which we must care.  We've had very good response, plus some humour: Freddie the Performing Flea took part the first year, and his demise was marked the second year!  It's brought together  people in and beyond the churches with a common interest.  

(Source: Buzz 51)

From Raunds, Nene Valley, Northampton
We've start WOT (Worship on Thursdays) this school term. It runs from about 3pm until 6, with creative activities, games, worship and a meal. WOT is being supported by a wide range of people from the Church (who are enjoying it themselves) and is already reaching people who were outside the Church family. It is great to see members of the Church becoming accepted as honorary grandparents!

(Source: Buzz 50)

From King's Somborne, Winchester
We're a village chapel with 16 members, but with the parish church we've run Young Christians Together in Somborne for the past 3 years, with now 35 children up to age 11. 7 of them (aged 8 - 11) have just completed a 'Welcome to the Lord's Table' course, and received communion for the first time at a joyful service in the chapel. With the Bishop's approval they can now receive communion in both churches. We enjoyed running the course, and will repeat it soon. We recommend it to anyone working with this age-group.

(Source: Buzz 49)

From Hexham, Northumberland
We've renewed Family Services, with 'Big Bin' once a month. Children join the first half of the service - i.e. longer than normal - with appropriate music etc. When the sermon's on, they go out to find what's in the Big Bin, which means some shared activities and games for all ages together. The regular teachers hear a sermon, and our Big Bin team lead the children. The children vote with their feet! They used to avoid family services, but now Big Bin is the best attended of the month.

(Source: Buzz 47)

From the Chaplaincy, Lancaster University
We praised God and broke bread to the beat of U2, with videos, reflection, prayer, silence, taking action. U2 have had spiritual and ethical content from the very outset. Their latest album speaks about issues of justice and spirituality. We don't want as a Christian community to separate the world into 'sacred' and 'secular' but to recognise that there are holy things in places we'd never looked in the past. Events in the pipeline include Coldplay Communion, Moby Mass.

(Source: Buzz 46)

From Chandler's Ford, Hampshire
Sunday Trading, sport (especially for young people) and leisure activities have changed Sundays for many families. It's made church attendance hard for some. So we've started WOW (Worship on Wednesday evening), a 45-minute service. This is in addition to the Friday morning service we've been holding for some years.

(Source: Buzz 45)

From Valley, Shildon, Darlington
We recently decided to try a Café-style worship entitled "Soup with the Simpsons".  We served, well yes, soup and a roll, while the assembled company watched an episode of the Simpsons. Afterwards, we had discussion groups led by facilitators.  We got some useful feedback on how relevant people thought the Church was in the 21st century. The whole thing proved an ideal opportunity for church members to share their faith.

(Source: Buzz 44)

From Chesterton, Cambridge
We've adopted a new pattern of Family Friendly worship on a Sunday morning. We serve a free breakfast at 10am, followed by Sunday School - for adults as well as children. Everyone joins a time of worship at 11am. This is followed by a more trad. sermon and prayers. The style is 'Pick and Mix' as no one's expected to be there all through. The number of children has increased dramatically in a short time, and we're also seeing more of their parents on a regular basis. 

(Source: Buzz 43) 

From Harrow and Hillingdon Circuit, London NW
We've been working on developing the role of worship leaders for some time, and now have 10 working in 7 churches. We have a circuit co-ordinator, and candidates are approved through the Preachers' meeting and appointed by their Church Council. WLs work with drama and music groups, and collaborate with ministers and Local Preachers. The year's training WLs receive ensures their role is well-organised, and we think the churches are delighted. We wait for Conference decisions on WLs with interest.

(Source: Buzz 42)

From South Chadderton, Lancashire
We have a number of funerals each year, and recently gave personal invitations to the families to attend a special service of remembrance. We included some of their funeral hymns, and gave an opportunity to light a candle. 26 people came, from 8 families, plus 14 bereaved members of the church family. Feedback was very positive, and we shall certainly do it again. We followed-up with a card at Christmas.

(Source: Buzz 41)

From Great Harwood Circuit, North Lancs
We recently received six new young members: they were asked what suitable gift they wanted at the confirmation service. The answer was a donkey! One was duly purchased through Oxfam for an African village. The six are now raising money for a goat, and various other members have followed their example and 'bought' a school desk and chair. And more young people are now expressing an interest in becoming members.

(Source: Buzz 40) 

From Stratford and Evesham Circuit
As previously noted in THE BUZZ, we've been running café worship for a while. Recently we were asked to share the idea with the URC synod meeting at Redditch. Using lamps, drapes, blackout, flowers and candles, we decorated the space and encouraged the 65 present to share in copious coffee and prayer! Water was a linking theme, and we recalled our baptism. We used computer images (and sparklers), and 35 people painted their feet: no space here to tell you why, so if you want to know, you'll have to ask!

(Source: Buzz 39)

From Connon Chape, Liskeard and Looe, Cornwall
We're not a large congregation - usually around 40. We designed some attractive leaflets to invite the local farming community and second-home owners to come to our Harvest Festival. This simple bit of publicity meant we had 120 present. We enjoyed putting out extra chairs! We're planning to follow this up with several events during the winter. 

(Source: Buzz 38)

From Central Manchester
We've just opened Nexus in the basement of Methodist premises in Dale Street, providing a creative arts centre and a venue for music in the Northern Quarter. We're working with 'Sanctus 1' which offers contemporary worship, mainly on weekdays, for city-dwellers - most of whom are aged between 18 and 40. Nexus is also a cafe, and as part of the City Centre Safe scheme, on Saturday nights we aim to provide a safe place from 11pm until 4am for clubbers. 

(Source: Buzz 37) 

From Gracious Street, Knaresborough
We created a prayer room for a 24/7 prayer session over 2 days. It contained lots of written aids to prayer, but we added candles, CDs, DVD images, and a 'prayer tent' draped with fabrics, plus floor cushions, a pebble pool for concerns, a shredder for confessions, a graffiti wall, a mirror, local and world maps - and plasticine, partly for the children! The atmosphere was so special that many took off their shoes at the door, and people who'd been apprehensive at the prospect of an hour to pray alone found themselves surprised when time was up.

(Source: Buzz 36)

From Priory, Bedford
WOW! stands for Worship Other Ways, and we've begun to create these bi-monthly 8pm sessions, in addition to our regular pattern of worship. We're trained worship leaders, leaders-in-training, local preachers, and indeed anyone who wants to put forward their thoughts and ideas. The first session had Forgiveness as its theme, with music, reflection, and a bible study prepared and led by younger members. It's beginning to feel like a real all-age event.

(Source: Buzz 35)

From Hamburg, Germany
We're now a stand-alone English-speaking congregation of the North Germany Conference of the United Methodist Church. We've started something called 'Fifth Sunday': we hold it every 3 months of course - so far an international Harvest, an Africa day, when 60 people gathered, including Zimbabweans (with lively unplanned Shona songs!) and Ghanaians, and an Asia day. You can get more information about this and other English-speaking groups in Germany at 
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(Source: Buzz 34) 

From the Clitheroe Circuit, Lancashire
We've started 'First Wednesday', a monthly circuit gathering in the 7 churches in turn during the light nights. Worship focuses on that church and its surrounding community, helping everyone to be more circuit-aware, and to get a wider vision. We're also holding a monthly 'Praise Night' on the 3rd Sunday evening at Chatburn - regular monthly evening events of contemporary praise and worship lasting 2 hours, bringing the circuit and other Christians locally together.

(Source: Buzz 33) 

From Shirley, Birmingham
We know Sundays aren't always an appropriate day for worship, so since October we've been offering two extra SPACE events each month. We run our version of café worship on the first Thursday evening: it's held in our Octagon coffee shop, using stones, flowers, candles and multi-media presentations. Then on the third Thursday SPACE moves into the chapel for a period of reflective, meditative worship. We feel we're allowing our senses to worship God in fresh ways. 

(Source: Buzz 33)

From South Harrow, London
We had a problem: too few Junior Church teachers, too few organists. We made it an opportunity: we've been running All Age Worship monthly for a year, prepared by 'our' local preachers and worship leaders. We want these to be for people unfamiliar with 'church'. We use visuals, drama, dance, participation, story telling. There's no traditional sermon, and music varies from orchestra to solo instrument. Everything said or sung, including the Lord's prayer, is printed. It's not perfect, but it's accessible and 'ours'.

(Source: Buzz 32)

From Lorton Street, Cockermouth, Cumbria
First, 'saturdaynightlive@lortonst.come' involves a meal at 5pm followed by groups on a theme (such as healing) in various forms - drama, quiet room, pub visit etc. - then a session together. We're planning to use arts and crafts as well. Second, we've started a monthly '3rd Sunday Service', with a varied music group, plus a screen to improve singing and to include interviews, photos etc. When an 87-year-old says he'll come again, we think that's approval!

(Source: Buzz 31)

From Littleover, Derby
For the past 2 years, we've been running open youth clubs-with-a-message, with 10 adult and 5 teenage leaders. We've realised that most of the 120 young people, even though lots are interested in Christianity, won't at present consider 'coming to church'. So we've been finding lots of ways of engaging them in 'worship', e.g. seeing charitable giving as worship, or exercising the body as worship, or poetry or painting on a theme as worship. We think that 15 have become Christians through the clubs.

(Source: Buzz 30)

From Pinner, London
For several years, we've had a pattern on Sunday mornings involving a 30-minute varied service at 9, a 30-minute teaching session at 10, usually led by the preacher at the 'main' service, which follows at 10.45. There are several worship groups which take responsibility for some services. In summer we have a couple of open-air services, and we've begun healing services too. We've also had short series of midweek services, for example in Advent and Lent. It's not easy, but we believe God is with us, and other churches have visited to see whether they can take up the ideas.

(Source: Buzz 29)

From Roehampton, South London
We're a tiny congregation on a high-rise estate with all the marks of extreme urban deprivation. We're running a series of Sunday afternoon services jointly with Anglicans and Roman Catholics, including 'Harvesting the Fruits of our Labours' (about work) and 'Thanks for the Memory', celebrating God's gift of memory by sharing keepsakes, old songs, stories and some favourite hymns and choruses. It's given a new lease of life and a positive forward-looking hope.

(Source: Buzz 28)

From Highway, Ewloe, North Wales
We've been running Cont@ct for 3 years on Sundays at 9.30 as an 'extra' service. It began with a band ('This Cause'), and we wanted to 'do something different'. We don't claim many 'new' worshippers, but young families are more regular. Cont@ct now involves 20-35 people - the church membership is 50-60. We've moved now to Friday at 7, because of the pressure to finish in time for Sunday's second service. We have a team of leaders including local preachers, and the Church Council have supported us.

(Source: Buzz 26)

From Kenilworth, Warwickshire
We've begun monthly Saturday tea-time '2gether.4.worship' or 2.4.w. This informal service is for extended families, who may not be able to be together on Sunday mornings. It's been attended by 40 people. Multi-media equipment projects images as well as words to songs. We have our own band, or use CDs. The music and teaching is child / young person focused and includes activities as well as quiet and more prayerful moments. After the service drinks and cakes are shared in a party atmosphere.

(Source: Buzz 26) 

From Gorton, Manchester
We're the Monastery of St Francis and Gorton Trust, and among lots of community regeneration projects we've formed a choir. Local churches have largely lost their choirs and music groups, so after a carol service we asked people to sign up for the choir. RCs, Anglicans, Methodists and those of no faith, sing gospel, folk, civil rights songs and pop classics. The accompanist and leader are from Community Arts, and the choir's grown to 39: it's fun! They've sung in church, in older people's homes and at community celebrations.

(Source: Buzz 25) 

From Wyson, Shropshire South
We (a congregation of about 15) held our first Tea Worship in June. With 10 visiting children, we had a total of 50 adults and 20 children for an informal afternoon including the main elements of worship, but with the sermon on a menu card, songs about love, craft work, favourite Songs of Fellowship, 'prayer hands' and tea-lights - and, of course, tea. Several tables had 3 generations together. PS: We've employed a youth worker once a week to run a club for 4-12 yr olds.

(Source: Buzz 24)

From Wotton-under-Edge United Church, Gloucestershire
Our 'Our Calling' journey has prompted many initiatives over several years. In worship, it's led to five new worship leaders being trained. They're offered (and gladly received in the main) as colleagues to work with all planned Methodist/URC preachers. They've written and prepared dramas, as well as leading prayers etc, and introducing new music: we've now published our own book of new music - licensed of course! We're now working hard on initiatives in evangelism.

(Source: Buzz 23)

From Chester-le-Street, Co Durham
We recently held a Creative Arts Day - originally a circuit local preachers' development day, but open to anyone. We collaborated with Feed the Minds, who organised the event for us. Workshops included Storytelling, Creative writing, Photography and Dance. The day culminated in an act of worship, within which we brought contributions from the workshops. 30 people attended, and left with the challenge of using these creative skills to enrich our worship.

(Source: Buzz 22)

From Knightthorpe, Loughborough
We're a church of 50 members. 3 years ago we had a tiny Sunday School and a shortage of teachers. Our minister suggested abolishing it, and replacing it with weekly all-age worship, so we did! The Early Service (9.15) is before the traditional service (10.30). We advertised it through Mothers and Toddlers, Girl's Brigade, and leaflets. The Early Service lasts 30 minutes, is active, with modern songs, and has grown to a regular 20, including children and parents with no previous contact. The church is growing.

(Source: Buzz 21)

From Oldham and Saddleworth Circuit
We've been running Little Fishes in the circuit for a few years: it's now operating in 4 churches, and growing. It's a 30-minute session immediately before morning service, aimed at 6-month to 6-year-old children plus their parents/ grandparents. It includes bible stories, songs and activities. In total, more than 100 children are regularly involved. It's expanded our experience of what worship can look like for people on the fringe of the church.

(Source: Buzz 20)

From Hove, Sussex
We wanted to 'do something' about evening services. Morning congregations are 80 - 120, but evenings only 10. So a small group, including Local Preachers, musicians and an RE teacher, are committed to planning monthly themes, but with different worship-styles. We began with 'Hope', and included a Folk Communion, a Taizé evening, and a praise band. We've printed publicity leaflets, and want eventually to invite people who aren't normally at worship. Initially, numbers have gone up to 28.

(Source: Buzz19)

From Blyth, Northumberland
We (at Central) have had specially-written Christmas pageants for the past two years. They combine comedy with a serious message, and they're performed during worship. This year's was called 'Follow the Star': the cast included Adam and Eve (parents of the wise men), and the innkeeper's wife was played by an 80-year-old. The 'star' was female, and there were multiple angels and shepherds from the Junior Church. The pageants were written by a local preacher, though, he says, "They ad-libbed as much as they learnt!"

(Source: Buzz18)

From Quinton, Birmingham
PAWS is our version of alternative worship. The Parallel Alternative Worship Service is approved and funded by the Church Council. Once a month, we all meet together, but after the second hymn, worshippers are invited to choose between two styles. The PAWS service includes projected images, periods of meditation when people can draw or paint, prayers with music etc., all on a theme. Junior Church members 12+ can also choose. Last month 80 chose PAWS while about 100 chose a traditional service.

(Source: Buzz17)

From Clydach, Tawe Valley, South Wales
We want to celebrate the fact that we're still here! About 5 years ago, we (about 20 members) faced a difficult future, with a large and expensive building. We had friends and family links in the nearby Welsh language Independent congregation. We received a warm welcome from them, and so now we use their church hall for worship and other events: we also share occasional bilingual all-age worship, and ministers exchange pulpits regularly. Recently we've welcomed 4 new members.

(Source: Buzz16)

From Cannock Chase, West Midlands
We started TGI Saturday 5 years ago, after our first Disciple course, as an alternative not-on-Sunday worship opportunity. TGI Saturday has been every 2 months, but from September it will be monthly on the 2nd Saturday. Attendance has varied, but we've built up a large ecumenical mailing list of those interested and supportive. We're a large circuit and so have deliberately not kept the venue in one place: this autumn we move to our third 'home' at our Chasetown Church.

(Source: Buzz15)

From Bridlington, North Yorkshire:
We've got the highest population of retired people anywhere in Europe! We run a mid-week service for the potentially isolated and housebound. 'The best day in the month', they say. We arrange transport, stay seated throughout, and use large-print hymnsheets. We limit the service to 30 minutes for continence reasons, and have tea and cakes afterwards. Some carers come too. It's midweek because families often visit at weekends.

(Source: Buzz1)

From Ilkley, West Yorkshire
With 180 people enjoying a traditional service on Sundays at 10.30am, we needed something else for families. Our answer is 'On-Line@9', a 45-minute active session using computer images, songs, dance, drama, games, quizzes and discussion groups. It's led by 5 teams of 4, following the framework of Partners in Learning. 'On-Line@9' began in April, and is already attended by 50 adults and 16-18 children. Afterwards, we serve coffee etc, and are joined by those arriving for the 10.30 service. We're greatly encouraged.

(Source: Buzz3)

From Marlow, High Wycombe Circuit
We, like Ilkley (Buzz3), have an alternative to traditional worship. We started a 9.30am multi-media service in May 2001: it's monthly, lasts 45 minutes, is primarily aimed at young families, but attracts grannies too! We use PowerPoint and Karaoke music (Ralph Ward etc. or MIDI), with stories, games and interactive prayers ("I light this candle for..." is very popular with the kids). The service has grown from 0 to 75 adults and children, including families who are completely new to Christian worship. All are mailed during the previous week, using e-mail if possible.

(Source: Buzz4)

From King's Cross, West London Mission
We moved Hinde Street to King's Cross (an achievement!) for Racial Justice Sunday, and held a service in English and Mandarin, with Liz Fekete of the Institute of Race Relations, David Foo the Chinese minister and Sam Walker from Hinde Street, who runs the Brixton Black History Project. They all spoke about the 'Them and Us' theme of Racial Justice Sunday. We ended with a Chinese meal. Coincidentally a student who'd been commended to Hinde Street four years ago turned up for the first time: he's studying Mandarin!

(Source: Buzz5)

From Ambleside and Windermere, Cumbria
We've been working with Our Calling, and specifically on Worship. We recognised that congregations wanted more active participation in services, especially in prayers. So we've created a booklet of 'Responses for Worship', which is now in all the circuit churches. There are eight sections, including Adoration, Confession, Intercessions, etc. We've asked for and received permission to use copyright material. We hope it'll be a useful resource which can be added to.

(Source: Buzz6)

From Upper Colwyn, North Wales
'At the Centre' is a monthly 40-minute worship event in the Community Centre on Sunday at 5pm. November was called 'Burn it up'; we threw notes of what we were sorry for on the bonfire we'd built during worship. In December we're holding two events, one aimed at children and their parents and called 'Ready for Chr*****s?' We usually end with food! We're a core group of about 12, including the Methodist and Anglican ministers, but our contact list is now about 70, with attendance 25 - 40. A good number have little or no other contact with Church.

(Source: Buzz7)

From Stanhill, Accrington & Haslingden Circuit
We've got an average congregation of 18, but in 2002 we've held two special services to make and retain links with a wider community. The first was a Celebration of Marriage. The event began with a barbecue. People brought wedding photos. 25 couples renewed their wedding vows and others remembered couples who'd had an influence on their lives. The second service was to remember those who have died: 20 people attended this time of reflection and moving on.

(Source: Buzz8)

From Herne Hill, south east London
Breakfast Worship was held at 9am on Sundays during last July and September. We're fortunate in having a garden and patio, so we were able to serve breakfast outside and use the patio for worship at 9.30am. The idea was to involve young children and allow families to have the day for themselves after 10am. A number of 'regulars' invited their friends, and 40 attended each time, with songs and prayers led by children. We're planning to do it again this year.

(Source: Buzz9)

From Market Rasen, Lincolnshire
If you look at our Plan, you'll see 8 or 10 services with the initials WL. 14 attended a circuit Worship Leaders course. 2 or 3 work together on each service: there are no sermons, so creative ways of proclaiming the gospel are found, often with members of the congregations. The Super meets the WLs every month for reflection and feedback. Congregations say "Oh we had a really good time with ..." The rules are flexibly interpreted, but the Local Preachers are happy!

(Source: Buzz10)

From Upper Calder, West Yorkshire
We hold a monthly Sunday evening circuit event called MMM - Music, Message, Ministry. The style varies: we've got a band, and music can be trad. or (more often) contemporary, including Celtic/Iona and Taize. We use laptop/projector images, and usually have a display. A recent MMM with Graham Kent was on The Suffering Christ, using pictures from the Methodist art collection. There's always some opportunity for congregational response. MMM moves around the circuit, and usually involves 50 - 100 people.

(Source: Buzz11)

From Ilkley, West Yorkshire - an update
'On-Line@9', the creative worship session first reported in Buzz 3, is now a year old. The Junior Church has grown from 6 to 21 regulars, and 6 'new' families are attending. Some previously 'switched-off' people have been 'switched-on' again and now contribute to the 5 teams of leaders. We're delighted to report that the atmosphere of each Sunday's session is full of joy, with a good adult congregation as well as the children. We're very encouraged and will gladly share our experience.

(Source: Buzz12)

From Wisbech circuit
We've been worship leaders (eldest 90) for a while. We were asked to work together to prepare and lead an act of worship at Synod when the ordinand's testimonies were heard. In a circuit where congregations are usually small, we were terrified at the thought of 250! One of us wrote a hymn. We did an Iona dialogue, and read the Singapore ordination words. We wrote prayers. Our super said, "it was a shot in the dark that paid off!" Of course!

(Source: Buzz13)

From Thornton-Cleveleys, Lancashire
We've been running monthly evening services in 'The Tent' for 2 years now. We've got a traditional pew-filled chapel, so we needed a more comfortable, flexible space. Hooks 3m above the floor of half the sports hall, plus a metal wire across the 4th 'wall' meant we could suspend curtains, roll out a carpet, add beanbags, chairs and cushions. It's cosy, and lit by uplighters. We use projectors for visuals and words. We start at 7.45pm and end at 9, followed by coffee and muffins.

(Source: Buzz14)

From Thornbury, Bradford
We've been holding a monthly Sunday evening session since 1998, experimenting with worship and involving video, graphics, films, ancient Christianity - icons, chants - and modern culture. We explore what it is to be Christian here and now. The group creates its own style, which has a strong multi-cultural flavour. Some of our material has recently been published as a book / CD-Rom by SPCK, called 'alternative Worship'.

(Source: Buzz15)


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