Chester & Stoke-on-Trent: Treasures and Challenges

Revd Gill Newton, President of the Methodist Conference, standing in a pulpit

Revd Gill Newton, President of the Methodist Conference, visited the Chester & Stoke-on-Trent Methodist District on the 13 and 14 March 2024 where she discovered two of the district’s treasures: its people and Englesea Brook Primitive Methodist Chapel & Museum.

The visit began with Revd Newton attending the Presbyteral Synod in Audley Methodist Church at which she led a conversation that provided space to engage with the ‘hidden treasures’ theme of the presidency. She offered input based on scripture, provided questions for discussion and encouraged them to keep looking for the hidden treasures around them.

“All of us are treasures to God and it was a joy for me to remind all those gathered how much they are valued and appreciated for all that they do and simply for who they are,” says Revd Newton.

A highlight of the Synod was Revd Kathryn Stephens’ testimony about the challenges, frustrations and joys of being a woman in ministry both within and outside the Methodist Church this year when we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the ordination of women in the Methodist Church.

“We celebrate the fact that the women who’ve gone before us have blazed a trail and they’ve experienced far more opposition than those who serve today, but we must recognise that there's still a long way to go before true equality is achieved,” regrets Revd Newton.

The event ended with the annual service of rededication where ministers renewed their promises, at which Revd Newton preached on the theme of hidden treasures, focusing on the fear of scarcity in the context of a God of abundance.

Revd Newton adds, “We have to be realistic about the situations in which we find ourselves but we have reason to remain defiantly hopeful because of the God we serve.”

The evening was spent with District Officers and those serving in the early years of ministry. It was a great opportunity to engage in conversation with those who have long years of ministry ahead of them and to hear from them some of the challenges which they experience and the hopes that they have for the future of the church and their ministry.

Englesea Brook Primitive Methodist Chapel & Museum.

On the second day of the visit, Revd Newton visited Englesea Brook Primitive Methodist Chapel & Museum and met with the team; Ruth Hilton, Project Director, Elizabeth Morris, Learning Officer, and Amy Wilkinson, Heritage Officer, and was pleased to have time to hear about their work and the projects they are focusing on.

“They have recently discovered that the Probation Service emerged from the Temperance Movement, so they are doing further exploration into that history as well as developing their great work with schools. It was also wonderful to hear how the team had felt that the Presidential theme of ‘Hidden Treasures’ had great resonance for them,” says Revd Newton.

She also explored the Chapel, the museum and the storehouse, enjoying all the Methodist treasures on display and those hidden away in cupboards and drawers discovering and re-discovering many primitive Methodist mementoes.


Later that day, Revd Newton was welcomed by Revd Kathryn Stephens and Revd Ruth Jeffries, ministers at SwanBank Methodist Church, and discovered a vibrant community seeking to serve the people around them, many of whom are experiencing considerable deprivation. During the visit, an Open Day was taking place at which many of the community groups with which the church partners in its work were present to talk to local residents

Revd Newton visited Number 11, a registered charity working out of a building owned by the church which has the vision of “Building Hope, Restoring Lives.” Here people are offered support for loneliness, low self-esteem, poor physical and mental health and unemployment.

“I was impressed by the wonderful family atmosphere and the obvious affirmation that those using the space were gaining from engaging with this charity over prolonged periods,” says Revd Newton.

The church also has a Community Grocery which they run in partnership with the Message Trust, located in Manchester, a charity that acts as a bridge between food banks and supermarkets and allows families to do their weekly shopping at a lesser price.

“It was a great visit, and all those at SwanBank should be proud of the amazing work they do in the community, seeking to share the love of Christ in practical and tangible ways and helping those they encounter to know that they are of worth and value, ” concludes Revd Newton.