Sunday, 3 November 2013

Saturday morning....can't quite believe that we are at the end of the week. Although this will be my last blog from visiting the teams, I will add some reflections over the next couple of weeks. If you have been involved with TOGETHER in any way I'd appreciate your reflections, comments & good news stories so please send them to me. This morning I went along to North Shields Methodist church for a family games morning & lunch. A great reminder that offering simple activities, hospitality and a safe place to meet is often all that is needed.

The Consett/Delves Lane team had sent out prayer requests as they'd changed the time of their open air service at the market place because of the weather forecast. It seems they got it right as they had only just finished when the rain came. Over the last 3 days the team has given away well over 1000 Bags of Hope & talked to many, many people.

Then off to Wrekenton for the joint youth event 'CONNECT'. DJ Sean kicked the night off then it was over to youth workers Andy & Jill who hosted the evening & kept the event rolling. KoGs (Kids of God) from Lanchester led worship & MAD from Delves Lane shared 2 amazing dances. Local leader Ian Stimpson shared his experience of bungee jumping in New Zealand & linked that to our need to trust God. Over 100 people attended this - the majority being young adults or under 18's. It was a very diverse group (a good number had never been to a church event before TOGETHER) and
everyone involved did a great job interacting and keeping people engaged. This was a great way to round up the youth work that's been going on through the week. And a good reminder that young people ARE still interested and do still want to know more about God...particularly when good folk get alongside them & demonstrate that God has made a difference in their lives. Everyone has worked incredibly hard on TOGETHER, but I have to say that those who'd been involved in youth work through the week looked particularly exhausted. Once more, a huge thank you to those who have given so much of themselves.  Even though it was late when we'd packed up and everyone was tired, people just weren't in a hurry to go home. I'm praying that the experience of this week will be something that God uses to change us & transform us more & more into the likeness of Christ. Many of us are already thinking & praying 'what next Lord?' - watch this space....

Saturday, 2 November 2013

Friday morning and Rob Wylie & I set off to the team at Consett & Delves Lane. Thursday, Friday & Saturday they are at Consett Market place giving out Bags of Hope, free literature, chocolate and lots of smiles. Like the Alnwick team & the Bede team they were also collecting prayer requests from anyone who was happy to stay & chat for a while. Considering it was Friday I was impressed with the energy & enthusiasm of this really was contagious. We were invited back to the church for lunch (a BIG thank you to all the good people who have baked & supplied food for the teams this week). At the lunch an interesting conversation arose from some of the younger members of the team. They'd been asking the team leader for my address so they could write to me & tell me we MUST do TOGETHER again next year! One of the young people then started to tell the minister how they could raise money to do it too. It was just so wonderful to be part of their loud, exuberant excitement and their delight at having been part of this special week.
Fantastic team!
Then over to Sunderland, St. Andrews Southwick, for their Light Party. Great to see families engaging in crafts, games & quizzes. Local leader Eunice gave a short talk about Saints and then team leader Graham presented a magic show (so many talents on these teams). We left just as they were having tea (we really can't eat at every visit). Then travelled over to Windy Nook to pop in & see the team who were facilitating an Urban Skills youth night. The football cage was a hit again, and some of MAD dance group from Delves were there to lead a dance workshop.
Then the final event we visited today was back up at Delves Lane for their youth drop in. Wonderful again just to see a place full of non-church kids. Yes its loud, yes it's messy...but I found it a very exciting environment to be in. Good news - some of the kids from this week have asked to join MAD (music & dance group) so keep praying for the leaders up at Delves as they continue this work. Our Youth President Tamara Wray visited last night too, as did our new Regional Team Coordinator Tricia Mitchell who has been traveling around with me to meet the teams. Tricia said, 'Wow! What wonderful people - team, guests and passers by. I've been touched by God through this week.'
I think though TOGETHER many of the volunteers, and myself, have rediscovered some of our roots. Things we maybe used to be involved in but had presumed were dated and wouldn't work anymore. But on the whole, when invitations have been given in love and with respect, people have responded.

Friday, 1 November 2013

 Thursday morning I visited the team at Lemington in Newcastle. A small team who are encouraging prayer and bible study in the congregation and then going into the community prayer walking. I was chatting to one of the Lemington members who told me that her and another lady prayer walk and meet each other to pray every week. I came away from Lemington thinking that while there are still pockets of praying people in our churches there is hope. Then in the afternoon Rob & I went through to visit the team serving in Pelton/Birtley. Not many adults had come into the Labyrinth & coffee that day but they had attracted a group of boys who were enjoying the tea & biscuits & playing games with the team. The boys also interacted with the of them seemed to be dropping a lot of stones into the water at the table that talked about giving worries to God. I asked if he had a lot of worries, 'I have' he replied.

Then in the afternoon I was delighted to finally visit the 'Pictures of Love' exhibition & craft activities in a shop in Whitley Bay. 'Pictures of Love' was a project Rob Wylie had initiated and it was good to see it being used so well. Around 60 people have been visiting this each afternoon, & I can understand why. There was something for all ages, crafts, art exhibition, a cup of coffee and a warm welcome...and all for free. It was interesting to think about how on Halloween the TOGETHER team had provided a space to engage with crafts on the theme of love.
In the evening we travelled back up to Alnwick for their final evening celebration & thanksgiving (on the theme of Light). What a way to finish their week. There were testimonies, tears, hugs and promises to keep working together. So many lives have been touched here & almost everyone involved has been challenged to keep on sharing the light & love of Christ. Church member Joy said, 'every minister, lay person, village & town should be out there listening to the hurts of the world'. Team member Hodge said, 'This week has completely blown me away'. Team leader Alan said, 'Going out on mission has helped me recognise again the priority of mission which is why I was called to be a minister in the first place.' They all have become very aware of the deep need of people on their doorsteps and their faith has been lifted to the point where they feel they CAN do something. Please keep praying with me that this link between Alnwick & the team from Rowlands Gill (plus one from Stakeford) continues to flourish and bear fruit.

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Well we are halfway through the week & already conversations are starting along the lines of 'how do we build on all this?' First visit today was to the team at Birtley who are having a great time just engaging with the general community who come onto the premises for coffee mornings, craft groups and drop in lunch. I was particularly impressed that the church have said that this week everything is free...they want the community to receive their hospitality as a gift. This is a photo of Gwenda who's done an amazing job as a local organiser (HUGE thanks go to all the local organisers). As you can see from their notice board the publicity was good fact as a Birtley resident myself, I received an invitation through the door to call in for some of their events. Well done Birtley.

Then Rob Wylie & I visited Alnwick. They have a prayer table in the market place & have been inviting people to go into the church to engage with a beautifully thought out labyrinth. They'd found the street work really hard on Monday & almost felt like giving in. But they sent out lots of requests for prayer & since then have been engaging with lots & lots of people. Their despondency has turned to huge excitement & amazement at all that God is doing. Look at these 4 youngsters writing prayer requests underneath the cool is that?

      As well as 'Prayer on The Streets' the team in Bede have been out every afternoon doing community clean ups & gardening with some lads from Wrekenton Boys Brigade joining in the fun. We then had a whistle stop visit to Hettons Holiday at Home....I was a little disappointed to have arrived too late to experience their nail bar. Tomorrow they have a trip out then Songs of Praise.

 In the evening we went to Cullercoats Methodist Church to share in a community meal. The team had done a great job inviting people.
The two women I sat with had both come along simply because they received an invitation through the door. We had a wonderful meal with lots of laughs as we embarked on a quiz. This is team leader Andrew eating his 3rd helping! No one seemed in a hurry to go home. It was lovely to see the community police call in to see what was happening....and then stay for dinner (they were rubbish at the quiz though).  So, another inspiring day. For those of you who pray, ask God to give us all energy to keep going for the next 3 days.

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

This week continues to excite people as we hear of folk stepping out in faith & serving God in new ways. This morning Rob Wylie & I visited North Shields to spend some time with the team. We presented some training on the theme of 'Journeying In Faith'. I just love it when groups of people are enthusiastic about learning. It was good also to hear their stories and then to pray together for all the people we encounter. After a yummy lunch, we headed off to St.Andrews Southwick in Sunderland to visit the team. They were still on a high after the morning's Kids Club. They'd had a great morning & more kids had turned up than they expected. We stayed for a while & joined the team as they went on a prayer walk around the surrounding estate.

Then I went down to Hetton in East Durham. As I walked through the door I was greeted by lots of smiling faces. They'd had a wonderful time working with older people in their Holiday At Home event. They'd started the day with seated aerobics...this really has to be seen! If you're a member of the Newcastle District Methodist facebook group go & have a look at the video clip - I promise you it will make you laugh. They'd had such a good time that the feeling of general goodwill & joy was very much evident. 

I'm so thankful for the many people who are praying for TOGETHER - please continue to do so. All the teams are writing down their prayer requests and these are being sent to prayer partners & to the other teams. It's so important to keep our focus on God. I'm delighted with all that the teams are doing, my prayer for them this evening is that their energy levels will stay high!

God bless you.

Monday, 28 October 2013

Ruth & Beth in the prayer room

Team leader Dave offering prayer
 on the streets of Gateshead

Monday....and it seems we all hit the ground running. My first visit of the day (alongside Rob) was to the team serving in the Bede circuit - they have a very full program. I met with them this morning to do some training & preparation before they went out on prayer walks. A group of us then went down to Gateshead centre to offer prayers on the street. It was a bit blowy so people didn't seem to want to stand and chat much, but we still had some interesting conversations and requests for prayer. A messy church craft stand was set up outside the supermarket for children to engage with. Others from the team went to do some gardening on one of the estates...several of lads from the Boys Brigade turned up to help.
Messy Church @ Tesco

Then off to Allen Memorial in Wallsend. Ken and the team had provided a kids club, and whilst that was happening there was a showing of the film The Nativity and several parents stayed to watch that and have a chat. They've recently launched messy church and it's already attracting new families.
The football cage 

   Our evening visits consisted of 2 youth events. First at Wrekenton where there was a great turnout of young people who joined in with the football cage, large screen games/dancing, hot chocolate bar, quizzes, prayer room etc. Then off to Delves Lane to visit their youth event. They were delighted that a good number of young people had turned up who are not already involved in the Church.

2 youth clubs in 1 night was
 a bit much for Elaine & Rob
  They held a fairly traditional youth club night with table tennis, pool,  LOUD music, dancing & crafts. Great to see the team members interacting with the young people and building relationships.
Then home to countless messages from other teams  - one in particular brought a big smile to my face. Sue Carr on the North Shields & Whitley Bay team, is involved in the 'Pictures of Love' art, craft & prayer space in a shop in Whitley Bay. Sue writes, '55 people came through the doors in the two hours Pictures of Love was open today. One lady came in with her grandaughter of 11 who had some learning difficulties. They stayed for nearly the two hours. Gran sat in the quiet area and her grandaughter did 5 activities. Gran said she was amazed by her concentration and enjoyment. It was all worth it just to make that space for them today.'
So, another great day with lots to thank God for.

Heegon teaching us TOGETHER in Korean

DJ Sean led workshops at both venues

Sunday was a very moving day. I visited Alnwick in the morning. Before the service we prayed as a team and there was a genuine sense of anticipation. At the beginning of the service a steward got up to give the notices....then she very movingly shared with us how the church had been praying and how they were believing God was going to great things this week. It's not often church notices make people cry! The Methodist Minister there, Pauline, a wonderful woman, then told us that the church nearly closed a few years back but they decided to keep going. Since then the congregation has doubled and there's new life. The only thing that worried me was if anyone else turned up for the service as I think there was only one seat left in the room! The team did a marvelous job....but a highlight for me was listening to Linda (from Rowlands Gill) share her story. She was just so natural and her words made us all laugh and cry. Well done Linda! And what an encouragement to others to try something new. I was sad to leave Alnwick but very much looking forward to popping back later in the week.
In the afternoon it seemed there was a constant stream of messages, emails, texts, tweets & calls from
TOGETHER folk telling me how things were going so far.                                                         In the evening I visited Birtley. Again a really good service was delivered and the good folk at Birtley were warm, appreciative and seemed ready to be involved in the weeks activities. They are hosting a messy church, lots of coffee mornings, a community lunch, a Light party, and at nearby church Pelton they are setting up a Labyrinth and inviting the community to come & experience prayer. This picture is Mari, and as a member of the team she also tried something new. Well done Mari! The service was led by Carol who is in training as a Local Preacher. My goodness she preached well. She reminded us all that God has given us gifts and we should use them for His glory. It was hard to believe that she's a new preacher. She wasn't sure what to write 
so I encouraged her to say 'God is using me' as without doubt that is what happened last night. On a personal note, I couldn't help but reminisce about a Share Jesus mission team who visited Birtley in 1988. I was there and on the last night my dad came to faith and had his life transformed by God. It was that same night that the team leader (Paul Smith) encouraged me to go to Cliff life has changed since then.                    The last HIGHLIGHT of the day comes in the form of a message I received when I got home. A young woman had come along to one of the other host churches and told how she used to believe but had drifted from God. The team leader prayed with her and she's no longer drifting!!! Praise God. 

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Together. A week of focussed mission in the Newcastle District

Today was one of those days. By that I don't mean 'one of those days' where you collapse in a heap and wonder what it's all about! Rather, 'one of those days' when I'm so delighted, encouraged & filled with hope. Today was the training & commissioning service for all the volunteers who will be serving on mission teams this week in various churches around the Newcastle Upon Tyne Methodist District. It was fantastic to see folk gather in anticipation of all that's going to happen. People of all ages too! Two highlights;
First, in the morning each team leader stood up and briefly shared what their team would be doing. There were some incredibly creative ideas, and many of the events could be initiatives in themselves. We heard about youth nights, film nights, Holiday at Home, community meals, knitting & natter group, celebrations, training events, d-church, urban skills, football cages, children's holiday clubs, messy churches, Light Parties, labyrinths etc. etc. etc. Brilliant opportunities to invite people to. But what moved me most was the amount of activities taking place outside of the church buildings; community clean ups, lots prayer walking, prayer stand in Gateshead centre, prayer & discussion space in Alnwick fish market, a shop offering creative arts & prayer in Whitley Bay, community acts of service, home visits with offers of DIY help, a messy church table in Tesco Gateshead. I'm praying particularly for the folk who are getting outside that they will have lots of opportunities to demonstrate the love of God.
The second highlight for me was the Commissioning Service. To be honest I don't always 'feel' the presence of God...but I did today. 
So, if you're a praying kind of person, please pray for TOGETHER this week....I'll keep you updated as the week goes on.
(If you've just discovered this blog now, you'll find a blog for each of the days, recording the events of the Together mission when you click on the links on the right of this page). 

Thursday, 28 March 2013

Easter Nails

At d-church last night the challenge was to post a pic of nails & say what easter means to us. If you image search 'easter nails' you get loads of pics like this one. It came as a stark reminder to me that for many, Easter is just about eggs, bunnies & a few days off (all of which are great) but they have very little to do with the real meaning of Easter. At some point this weekend I'm going to sit, be quiet, and think about a God who died for his people because he loved them that much. Surely Easter is worth a few minutes thought & reflection...even if it's just the time it takes you to paint your nails.
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Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Brothers and sisters in Christ,

For some time I’ve had a growing uneasiness as I consider people's various responses to the changes facing Methodism and the direction of travel we have embarked on. Not, I hasten to add, because of my own personal opinions on the rights or wrongs of any recent decisions made by conference or proposed by the leadership. I genuinely believe this uneasiness is being used by God to provoke me to exhort us all to pray fervently for one another.

My concern comes from the polarisation of views and opinions that have been so readily given, and at times the tone in which that has happened. When division is apparent in the Church, a new, more prayerful path should be sought. In no way do I suggest that the path we are on is wrong – what I do suggest is that despite differing views we join together in praying that God will continually lead us. Heated debate and letters show the depth of feeling, hurt and even fear that many are feeling when considering the future of the Methodist Church. Regardless of our own opinions, can we not set aside time to pray with one another?

So then let us pray, and in particular I exhort you to pray in groups. As Ash Wednesday quickly approaches, let us take and create every opportunity to gather with those around us to pray on that day. Asking God to help us dig deep into the DNA of our Methodist roots and rediscover our mission and passion. Praying also that we will be shown a godly path…a path free from dispute but not discussion, a path free from incriminations and flavoured with love and respect for our sisters and brothers (Colossians 4: 2-6).

So on Ash Wednesday I will be inviting others from my locality to join with me in prayer. Would you please consider doing the same?