01 September 2006

New shape for Methodist Church in the South East

MEMBERS of Methodist churches in Kent, East and West Sussex, Surrey and parts of Berkshire and Hampshire Ð plus Methodist churches in Malta and Gibraltar Ð come together from September in a new District of the British Methodist Church.

The new South-East District, which will have 16,000 members from 240 churches, is being created as part of reorganisation of the structure of the church in and around London. Chair of the new district is the Rev John Hellyer, married with three children, who comes to the South-East from Birmingham.

He will be supported by three assistant chairs Ð the Rev Peter Neatham, from Herne Bay, in the eastern section of the district, the Rev Sheila Foreman, from Eastbourne, in the central section, and the Rev Dr Emmanuel Jacob, of Slough, in the west. With John Hellyer, they will form a district leadership team heading the mission and outreach activities of churches in both urban and rural areas.

Already, however, activities by individual churches include an ambitious project to turn one into a centre for the community, response to urban developments, a church flower arranger appointed to be one of the team responsible for flowers at Windsor castle and a project which aims to contact and to support young people. Ministers in the district include chaplains to prisons, the police and ambulance services, and to a centre for immigrants.

John Hellyer says: 'The Methodist people practice the Christianity of the warmed heart, the caring hand and a longing for justice in the world. This is an exciting time, when the we are reshaping the way we work in London and the South-East so we can respond to the challenges that come with the way the whole region is developing in the 21st Century'.

The new district comes into being on Sunday, 3 September, at an inauguration service at Tunbridge Wells, attended by representatives of churches throughout the district and by local authority, ecumenical and other faith guests. It will be led by the president of the Methodist Conference, the Rev R. Graham Carter, and addressed by a former president, the Rev Dr Christina leMoignan.

Download a pdf showing the new districts

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