Inaugural address by Revd Stephen Poxon new President of the Methodist Conference

The new President of the Methodist Conference, the RevdStephen Poxon, has called on the Church to celebrate God's graceand transform the world. Speaking on the opening day of the 2008Methodist Conference in Scarborough, Stephen invited the Church to"begin to grapple with how this wonderful grace of God mighttransform the world."

Stephen also spoke passionately on the situation in Zimbabwe: "Welook in horror and sorrow at what has been happening in Zimbabwe.How slow as a nation we have been to condemn Mugabe and his regime,and only now are people waking up to the violence and genocide? Wemust continue to find ways to express our solidarity with all thosewho struggle for justice, freedom and peace.

Stephen also offered his "thoughts and prayers to our friends inthe Anglican communion" on the eve of the Lambeth Conference. Thefive-year-old Anglican-Methodist Covenant will be discussed by boththe Methodist Conference and the Church of England's GeneralSynod.

In his address, which marks the start of his year of office,Stephen recalled how he and his wife Myrtle arrived as a youngcouple in Jamaica to work with a church there. He said that thelove showed by the people there did much to shape both of them, andgave examples of other acts of extraordinary kindness shown bypeople who had little or nothing for themselves.

Following the 2007 decision by Sheffield to become the UK's first"city of sanctuary," Stephen called for more places to follow thatexample by recognising "the contribution of asylum seekers andrefugees to the city of Sheffield, and committing 'to offeringhospitality to people who come here in need of safety frompersecution.'"

Stephen spoke about hospitality as a key example of grace, andexpressed regret that the Church has not been more hospitable inthe past towards people who moved to Britain. But he celebrated themodern examples of church work with asylum seekers and howMethodist churches are being hospitable to their communities, tochildren and young people and to other faiths. As chair of theMethodist North Lancashire District, Stephen has seen many examplesof churches working with the large Bangladeshi and Pakistanicommunities there.

Stephen is married with four children. His wife, Deacon MyrtlePoxon, was Vice President of the Methodist Conference in 2004-5,and they are the first married couple to have held bothposts.

The full text of the address follows:


Over the past years there has been a growing theme within thechurch - of our need to re-engage with society, of needing tolisten to the world, to be aware that we are on the edge of Goddoing something new, a new Pentecost, a renewal Yet where does allthis come from? What is under girding it all? No simple answer butone word which keeps coming back to me again and again may be akey….that powerful yet gentle word 'grace'

We are people of grace….and I invite you this afternoon tocelebrate with me God's grace and to begin to grapple with how thiswonderful grace of God might transform the world.

Offering and Celebrating Grace

Myrtle and I were stationed as probationers to Jamaica….family andfriends told us how much they admired what we were doing, going asmissionaries to the Caribbean….yet they and we had not thought itthrough. For what about the people of Jamaica, in particular the StAnn's Bay circuit - they didn't know us. didn't know if we wouldlove them and minister among them….but they received us, theyaccepted this young couple from the UK…..and they loved us andshaped us and so much of what I am today is due to them…..it was anact of grace…of love being given to us so freely and without anydemands…. Story of Miss Freda .and perhaps it was encountering suchgrace in the people we quickly gave them our love and shared somany happy years among them

Here is grace - the redemptive activity of divine love - the loveof God, totally undeserved, freely given/offered to allpeople

I am thrilled that my dad is here today, 88 and still leadingpeople to faith as he drives up the M6 to visit us, but my mumdied10 years ago. When I was born I didn't naturally love myparents but through the love they showed me I began to love themtoo. This is my experience of coming to faith…not by some suddenconversion but a gradual awakening to God's love around me…infamily, friends, creation, in life…..and I began to offer my loveto God

So what does it mean to live in God's grace?
It is to live in the knowledge that we are loved and accepted forwho we are.
To live in Grace - the assurance of being in the presence of totalultimate love

Here is one of the important discoveries of faith…..
That those who have experienced God's grace are called to celebrateand share it - this is none other than the purpose of the church -the mission of God - to share his love revealed in Jesus.

- amazing grace!

I was invited to share in the centenary of Christianity arriving inthe Solomon islands in 2002. That is a wonderful story of God'sgrace in itself…but another day! I was the rep from our Church andthere were others from Australia, NZ, Canada PNG, Tonga, Fiji andother Pacific countries. People travelled by canoe and boats ofevery size to Munda and on the first evening I was sat on theground with hundreds of others watching the various choirs anddancers performing……the man next to me, l;esley, introduced himselfrather shyly as a minister from one of the islands and he laterwent on to say that their Moderator had encouraged them to speak tothe people from overseas as they were 'important' ! Each day Lesliewould find me and we would have a conversation and then on the lastday he asked me to come and meet his wife who had been ill. Westood under a tree and Barbara handed me a small parcel wrapped innewspaper fore my wife…I opened it (as was expected) and it was astring bag ……and then Leslie gave me a parcel wrapped in colouredpaper. I opened it…and this is what he gave me…an embroideredpillow case…one of his members had given it to him…and he wanted tooffer it to me! a moment of grace…a gift freely given..

But it is not only at the individual level that we see God's gracebut within the world and all creation:
Some of the stories and pictures coming out the recent disasters inBurma and China - people found alive days after - moments ofgrace…as the rescuers loving hold the traumatised woman, thescreaming child……

Moments of grace we have seen across the sea in Ireland…..wheremiracles of peace and reconciliation continue to unfold

There have been times when I have been overwhelmed by God's love atwork in the Church and the world….but also times I have felt deepsorrow as I have wondered where God's grace has gone!

We look in horror and sorrow at what has been happening inZimbabwe. How slow as a nation we have been to condemn Mugabe andhis regime…..and only now are people waking up to the violence andgenocide…..where is God's grace in all of this? We, and ourGovernment, must support in every way possible the initiatives ofthe African Union Summit meeting in Egypt this past week. We mustcontinue to find ways to express our solidarity with all those whostruggle for justice, freedom and peace. To this end our offeringin tomorrow's morning worship will be specifically for the use ofthe Methodist Church in Zimbabwe in the rebuilding programme oftheir nation.;

As difficult as it can seem at times God's grace is ever present..even in the worst of all suffering.

Here in Britain when a mother whose son has been stabbed can offerforgiveness and sympathy to those whose lives are so messed up theylive in such a violent world.

So here is grace - freely given to all people….
Not just Methodists…not just Xns…not just to those of faith…but toall people…..
even though we don't deserve it

and when we feel grace is absent…….it is me, it is us, who choosenot to live within it…
These past few years have been difficult for us as adenomination….feels like we are on a constant steep decline…our exPresident, as with the others, has shared stories of greatencouragement…but has clearly stated that there are those churcheswho are so stuck into their past they will die! We have gonethrough a painful re-structuring process, particularly within theConnexional team, and there have been times it could have beenhandled more sensitively and showing much more grace. Circuits,churches are looking at bigger circuits…coming together…and only ifthis is for mission will it be fit for purpose…….but for theaverage church member it is threatening…it is a constant time ofchange…

How can we move through this period of change…..is there anyconstancy…….
There is God…There is Grace

We need to rediscover and reclaim our Armenian heritage - thatJesus lived, died and rose again for all humanity…in every placeand every time……it is the loving action of God…and depends onnothing we try to do….it is all of God…...it was this Gospel ofgrace which made the Methodists an 'evangelical movement'… not asthe word denotes today…but in the words of Wesley: salvation wasfor 'every soul of man' - and 'Come, sinners, to the gospel feast,let every soul be Jesu's guest'

But how does this relate to our multi faith and multi culturalsociety……..what does God's grace for all mean in thiscontext?
We need to continually be people of grace - to not only share gracebut to be able to receive grace again from our neighbours, from theWorld Church…the world community

So the question is how can we make space for the happening calledgrace?

SONG - Amazing Grace

Offering Hospitality

The Chairs of District in the NW gathered three weeks ago for ajolly. To meet together with our spouses and say farewell to DavidEmison and his wife Vivienne….although they were hosting their ownparty!! David hired a clapped out minibus for the afternoon anddrove at death defying speeds around the twisting narrow lanes ofthe Lake District. We made a number of stops and each time out camethe folding table…and table cloth, glasses and a variety of drinksand nibbles…this was but a foretaste of the wonderful banquetawaiting us at their home…what hospitality….

Hospitality. Here is Grace- love freely offered…

There are countless stories in the Old Testament where hospitalityis seen as the normal attitude of welcoming strangers. They aretreated as honoured guests and there is real surprise whenhospitality is not offered. The prophet Isaiah sees hospitality tothe needy as a mark of true religion:

Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring thehomeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourselffrom your own kin? Is 58:7

We discover in some of the stories that the guests carry preciousgifts with them which they are eager to share with a receptivehost. When Abraham received three strangers they revealedthemselves to him as the Lord announcing that Sarah his wife wouldgive birth to a son - at least it caused a laugh!.

This joy of both giving and receiving has been my I experiencethrough life. Henri Nouwen wrote: "We often go to the poor to givethem what we have, but we always stay because of what they give tous." It means that the distinction between host and guest proves tobe artificial - this is what we found in Jamaica….and time andagain since.

This theme of hospitality also runs through the New Testament. Inthe parable of the final judgement in Matthew 25, people are judgedaccording to the hospitality they have offered. Jesus is welcomedat Bethany, Lydia offers to accommodate Paul and his companions,and later Paul urges the Christians in Rome to: "Contribute to theneeds of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers" (Romans12:13) and elsewhere he tells the Church that it should be given inthe spirit of love and without complaining. Christian hospitalitythen should not be done grudgingly, nor as a duty, but the glad anddetermined act of a cheerful giver. - it is gracepersonified!!

Sadly this has not been the experience of many who have come amongus in recent years. The Caribbean community who came to Britain atour invitation in the 50's rushed to what they saw as 'their motherchurches'. Yet, as we now know to our loss, many had a coolreception and this in part has led to the setting up of the 'blackled' churches in our nation.

An important part of hospitality is the sharing of meals, and manychurches today are rediscovering the importance of meeting aroundfood offering a safe space for people, helping them to relax and toopen up conversations.

So what could it mean for us as a church, and as a nation, if weexplored more fully this concept of gospel hospitality? I take itfor granted that our premises are being used by a rich variety ofgroups, some church based like women's fellowship, other communitybased like parent and toddlers and others are self help groups likeAA…..but there is a world of difference between allowing groups touse our buildings and offering them hospitality and all the risksand opportunities which this brings.

To the Community
We are constantly being challenged to discover new ways of engagingwith the community. There are many examples right across theconnexion - fresh expressions, Hope 08…... One that is bearingfruit in Bamber Bridge, Lancashire is the 'Just Fair Laughs'initiative where the church organises 'clean comedy' nights once amonth based in the local Con Club. There are usually 3 comedianswho willingly accept the 'charter' about what is in/out forjokes…….and so far they have sold out each time with a fairly evensplit of church and non-church people attending. The hope is that agroup of community people might be able to visit a fair tradeproject in the coming months…but meanwhile it is becoming anopportunity to share the gospel in a unique way.

To children and young people
We have 9 Methodist Schools in the District and they have worked tocreate a marvellous resource on Christian values to be used inschools and churches. They gathered together to share what eachgroup had done and saw the finished cross that they had helpedcreate. Over 60 children from the schools were fed by the churchand there was a sense of awe as we shared together. Many of ourministers go into schools to share in worship but what about beinghost to your local school for a special event?

Young people feature almost daily in the news headlines at themoment - for another stabbing or racial attack or being drunk….andthe threat of asbo's doesn't seem to have much effect. 'There'snothing to do in the evenings'…there's nowhere to go on Fridaynight'…….
A good n umber of us here grew up attending youth clubs…some of useven came to faith through MAYC/BB/GB…….but as I look around thereis little open youth work going on…not so bad with children…butteenagers…too scared….not enough staff….

But then those churches that do open themselves up…and arehospitable…and count a good evening as only having 3 fireextinguishers let off, and a clock broken by a flyingfootball….these need the support of our local councils…yet so oftenwhen we apply for funding we are turned down because they don'tsupport the faith sector….yet this has been part of the governmentinitiative for the past years…we have to challenge those in localgovernment to get real…..to catch up with the government policy andto fund churches in their offer of hospitality to youngpeople…

To people with mental health and learning difficulties
During his ministry, Jesus constantly sought out and healed thoseon the fringes of society including those who would now berecognised as suffering from mental and other disorders. Thehelpful leaflet launched at last year's Conference,' Out ofSolitary Places' states that '1 in 4 British adults experience atleast one diagnosable mental health problem in any one year…' It istherefore imperative for churches to make special efforts towelcome and involve people with mental health and learningdifficulties in their life and worship. A good number already hostCauseway services where those with learning difficulties areenabled to worship and encounter God in ways that are meaningful tothem.

To students
Over these last few years whenever we have had to cut back oncircuit staff one of the first areas to go has been where we haveengaged with people outside the church. In particular we haveslashed our commitment to ministry in the area of HE and FE. Manyof us are in the church today because of MethSoc's, Ecusocs. CU'sand similar Christian groups. For 11 years I was privileged to bethe Methodist/URC chaplain to all the institutions of HE in Cardiffand after my first year the Cathays Church became the home forhundreds of students from around the world. They were from allkinds of Christian background and none. We saw many come to faithand even more challenged to think about the deeper issues of life.They in turn offered hospitality to others, including them intotheir love…..I remember Ben Knighton, he wasn't a student but ofsimilar age……his mum, Anne, had died….Ben was suffering fromepilepsy…..he would attend evening worship at Cathays with thehundred or so students and young people but half way through hewould nip out for a cigarette…and then over to the pub…I knew itwas a good service if he came back!

We need the courage to once again invest in this sphere ofministry and our churches again to become open homes for studentsto come and find love, warmth, challenge of faith and of course ifoffered through food it is especially welcome!

To Asylum Seekers and Refugees
Over the past few years hospitality towards asylum seekers andrefugees has been at the heart of some of our church's ministry.There are many stories of particular congregations caring forpeople who have fled for their lives and found their way to Britainonly to be threatened with deportation. But this is happening allaround the world.

On my recent trip to South Africa I was taken to visit CentralMethodist Church in the centre of Johannesburg. This huge complexhas been transformed over these past couple of years by theministry it has offered to asylum seekers and refugees. We walkedin through the front doors of this four storey building, pastgroups of people hanging around the entrance, stepping over peoplesleeping in the corridors as the odour of urine filled ournostrils. What was once a 'white prestigious church' with beautifulpremises is now a refugee centre for about 1200 people sleeping inevery area, except the sanctuary, night after night. They feedabout 1800 people each night as well as taking food to the hundredsof homeless who sleep rough around the train station. There are avariety of projects inter-linked to this ministry among refugees.One that made me smile was the crèche for about 20 babies allowingtheir mothers to go out and work - all the babies had been born inthe church! That's what I call natural church growth!.

It is not without cost. There is a growing tension within thecountry about the growing number of refugees from Zimbabwe.. Therehave been police raids of the Church and we have hear reports ofviolence against foreigners and know that the Church is oftenwalking a fine line between offering hospitality and rousing upresentment from within the wider community.

My own thinking on this has recently been challenged by InderjitBholgal who shared with me the concept of Cities ofSanctuary.

The roots of sanctuary are thousands of years old, and as theHebrew nation was being formed they established 6 towns ofrefuge/sanctuary (you can read about it in Numbers 35). These townswere able to give refuge even to foreigners. This concept ofsanctuary was adopted by the Church in Europe and became legallyrecognised but often got caught in the competing claims ofauthority between Church and State. Over recent years the conceptof Sanctuary has come to the fore again in different parts of theworld and on the18th June 2007 Sheffield became the UK's first cityof Sanctuary. The city recognise the contribution of asylum seekersand refugees with over 70 organisations being 'committed tooffering hospitality to people who come here in need of safety frompersecution.'

Many of our congregations are being enriched by such people fromacross the world. Individually we often take up their case forlegal representation, pastoral and practical support…but is thissomething we as a Methodist Church want to get involved in andencourage other places to become cities of sanctuary?

To Other Faiths
These past 8 years as Chair of District have been in Lancashirewhere a significant part of our population comes from Bangladeshand Pakistan. In some parts of East Lancashire it has been seen asa threat to the churches and many are struggling to survive. Yetothers have realised the rich opportunity this all affords. Thereare wonderful stories of imaginative ways that people are meetingwith people of other faiths.

Building Bridges in Burnley came into being following thedisturbances in the summer of 2001. It got off the ground throughthe support of the local churches and was helped at a critical timeby a grant from our own Methodist Church. The uniqueness of thisproject is that it is based in the Ibrahim mosque. From here thegroup of committed people of both faiths try to build bridges ofunderstanding in a number of ways. One of these is through havinglarge events hosted by the Muslim or Christian community where theyget over 400 people sharing in one another's food andtraditions.

For me the special moment has been when Graham Carter visited asPresident of Conference. As we sat around talking to one or twopeople the 'call to prayer' was heard. He was quietly invited toaddress the men at Friday prayers…….a real moment of grace!

To other churches
What is God saying about our future ecumenical journey? How can weoffer hospitality to other churches? We need to work for areconciled unity which is informed by the mission of thechurch….learning to be Christians Together and not ChurchesTogether. Yet even as I say this our thoughts and prayers are withour friends in the Anglican communion as they are in danger ofbeing split apart even on the eve of the Lambeth Conference.

One of the most exciting things happening within the church todayis the way we are being renewed by the growing number of peoplefrom around the world who come among us. We have hopefully learntfrom the 50-60's and people from Asia, Africa, S. America, Europe,Pacific……. find a warm welcome. Some of our sister churches areseeing real growth with the large number of people of faith comingfrom Eastern Europe…..and we are becoming aware of more and more'ethnic' and 'language' congregations within our midst - Chinese,Korean, Farsi, Ghanaian, Zimbabwean…..some using our premises….weneed to embrace them…to embrace one another…..to realise this is anact of grace from God…..for this may lead to a change from withinfor us as well!!

For many people within the church the main focus of ecumenism isn'taround bishops, women's ordination, gay clergy, songs orhymns…….but is focused in the communion, the Eucharist, thebreaking of bread……..where we long to gather together…where all theother questions and divisions can be healed……and we can once againexplore the whole concept of God's grace……and discover that it isall of grace - lavish hospitality linked with salvation for allpeople.

So what does it mean to offer gospel hospitality to all? ….topeople who feel excluded, those on the edge of society, people whoare different to us...to me and I hope this may be something we canexplore as David and I travel the connexion this year.

It begins from the simple premise that 'We' are the 'hosts''. Ourbuildings, our gifts, our ministry ……and we need to learn a newculture of being willing to receive all who are in need. Not justin worldly terms but in need of love, friendship…in need ofGod.

Why? Because of grace
Because we have received hospitality from the 'host ofcreation'

POWERPOINT - Amazing Grace

Offering a Transforming Spirituality
All the surveys continue to reveal that we live in a society todaywhere
· many people believe in God but don't feel the need to attendchurch
· many people are open to many forms of spirituality but somehowdon't connect with the Christian faith
· words have lost meaning
· the church has lost confidence

So what can we do?
We need to offer society a spirituality which is relevant fortoday

But what do we mean by 'spirituality'? a word very much in voguetoday……one helpful definition is 'life in the Spirit'…..and thebasis for our spirituality today must not be so much about God-talkbut God-walk…for we need an integrated spirituality bringingtogether this walking and talking with God which also engages inthe struggles for human liberation.

Put simply this means a spirituality that is not too narrow but onewhich engages with the world
Once again it is having the courage to reclaim our Methodistheritage for wasn't this part of our foundations, part of ourDNA…this deep search for scriptural holiness with a commitment tosocial justice.
We must find ways to make it relevant for today, to once againhelp people reconnect with life, with one another, and withGod

There is no ready made,off the shelf answer.
There is no ready to mix programme
But there are hints, there are churches, groups of Christiansaround the world who have begun to discover this transformingspirituality.

Bernard of Clairvaux said that when it comes to spiritualityeveryone must know how to 'drink from their own wells'.
Where are the wells from which we can drink today?

On the surface we are a society that is locked into the successculture, of self dependency and self determination. There continuesto be a break down in community, in family life and social moralscoupled with the rise of the 'global village' where we are beingchallenged by new cultures and other faiths in a world more andmore driven by the media rather than politicians.

Yet beneath this thin veneer there are the same challenges andquestions, fears and opportunities as any where in the world….wejust disguise them well. Of our need for security, shelter, food,friendships …along with the eternal questions of who am I? what ismy purpose? The fear of dying and what if anything lies beyond……inthe midst of our seeming confidence and certainties we fear toexpose our vulnerability.

Around the world there is an emerging spirituality which is comingout of brokenness and vulnerability and this is beginning toconnect with many people in our plural society in Britaintoday.

The struggles of the poor people of Latin America have led to whatis called liberation theology and this has been rooted in the basecommunities of these countries. There a spirituality has developedwhich has come from the experience of the dispossessed andmarginalised people As people have sought freedom from poverty,degradation and death they have found new ways of knowing God. Weneed the poor to teach us dependence, for unless we learndependence we will never experience grace.

The founder of the l'Arche communities, Jean Vanier, has for 30years lived within communities with people who have learningdifficulties sharing their experience of rejection and suffering.He writes:
But over the years of living with people
Who have been crushed or put aside
I have discovered something new.
They have led me gently
Into the depths of my own heart
Filled, as it is, with light and darkness.
They have led me into the mystery of Jesus
And of his message,
And into the secret of humanity and its history.
They have shown me the light shining in the darkness.

It is the light shining in the darkness which embodies so much ofthe care of the dying being offered through the hospice movement.One of the exciting aspects of this care is watching people grow inspiritual stature. How ordinary people, within their fears of deathand dying, can gradually transcend the human bonds of fear andself-interest until their only concern is for others.

In the recent Hugh Price Hughes lecture Donald Eadie shared theexperience of those with disability and impairment and asked thequestion 'Can disability reveal more of the life of Christ?'

'We are learning that theology must not be left to those who arefit and strong, able to spend all day in the library or on thecomputer.
Theology must also be wrestled for through pain and disability:these are the raw materials of our encounters with a mysterious andsilent God, whose name seems sometimes so hidden. That's how Jacobgot his hip dislocated. With our spinal injuries, MS, artificialjoints and living with depression we are well qualified to carry onthe struggle.'

Many of our city centre churches are doing this as they offerhospitality to the homeless and discover an emerging spiritualityamong those on the edge of society. Often those who come to helpreceive so much more than they expect. In the Comfort Zone projectin Blackpool Maureen volunteered to help and shared with merecently how at the age of 70 she has discovered where God wantsher to be. 'These people just want to be loved, to have their handheld or just to stroke their arm…….'

And so the examples could go on……I believe that this emergingspirituality which is coming out of the brokenness of the world,out of an awareness that we need to re-connect with those who aresuffering, dying, abandoned, lost, is speaking to us Here the heartof the gospel message finds focus in the suffering and brokennessof Christ. It is how this suffering is interpreted and workedthrough that becomes a light shining in the darkness, a glimmer ofhope in Christ, a foretaste of the life of the Spirit. For what ishappening is that these people are discovering they are loved andimportant to others……

In the end is this not the deep yearning of every human being? Toknow we are loved. So this spirituality, coming out of the mostvulnerable, is speaking to the vulnerability within us all - heartspeaking to heart!

There are some common threads coming out of this emergingspirituality which I hope we can explore during the year ahead withthose who would like to on our District visits

Encounter with God
The great spiritualities in the life of the church continue toexist because they keep sending their followers back to thesources, experiences of faith, where they can drink from their ownwells.
So for people of Latin America this encounter with the God is inthe poor….……
Tom Quenet tells the story I have now used many times:
'Whilst visiting a feeding centre on the outskirts of Montevideorun by the Methodist Church, we arrived in time to witness whatschool children from a very deprived community receive forbreakfast - a cup of milk and a bread roll. I had already had mybreakfast and upon arrival, after the formal introductions made myway to sit at a table and talk to the children as they hadbreakfast. I sat opposite a young girl who was drinking her milk,she stopped drinking and smiled as we greeted each other. Noticingthat no one brought me a glass of milk and bread, the young girltook her bread, broke it and gave half to me. At that moment, I metwith Jesus'.

Climbing down the ladder
Encountering God means we learn again the great secrets of thefaith
For Vanier it was to 'walk down the ladder of success'.
To learn to walk with people who are broken and in pain… hebelieves it is only at the bottom of the ladder that we truly meetJesus in the poor, disabled, marginalised……in the ministry of'washing feet'

Brokenness can help people rediscover community
The support of others in our own suffering and in being insolidarity with others in theirs helps people re-connect.
I shared the story of Ben earlier…….he was diagnosed with a braintumour…and he died aged 25…in those last days at thehospice…..wonderful scene of two people around his bed…..on oneside a friend recently out of prison and on the other GeorgeThomas, speaker of the House of Commons….held together as so manyof us were by love of Ben…that through his suffering and dying manyof us encountered God…and what a celebration the funeralwas!!….

This is not a blue print but sketching in some ideas to be exploredwhich develops a spirituality grounded in the reality of living outour faith in the world of success and wealth; power and violence;suffering and injustice, exploitation and death

It offers each individual the opportunity to discover self and Godnot only in the wounds of humanity but in the self realisation oftheir own wounded vulnerable being.

For Christians this offers a hope founded on Christ - not seekingto remove us from our vulnerability or the brokenness of the worldbut to find the mystery of Christ within it.

So facing up to our vulnerability leads us to a dependence onGod
It is always relational and about discovering how we can live incommunity with God and others
A spirituality that enables us to hold our diversity incommunity
Today it is a spirituality which has a global context
And must always be one which is transforming of society, business,economics, individual lives

It is none other than the spirituality of grace not of success,wealth, power

A spirituality which enables us to recover our human solidaritythrough Christ - for it is more important to be human thanreligious!

All this is of grace………wonder and faith
That if we can be taught by the Host of all creation to becomegracious hosts ourselves….not just our church buildings, worship,our outreach, our mission but me…you…each one of us created in theimage of God……..
If an individual can find in me a hospitable space…where they arewelcome…to share my life…and discover within my openness andvulnerability the love of Christ…….then perhaps that might helptransform one life…….and who knows even the world.