It’s almost time for the winter festival which I call “Winterval”. Winterval is a highly religious festival
with all the trimmings that celebrates excessive consumption.
Winterval features lot of wonderful traditions such as goodwill to all. It is a time for communities to come together for a short time lasting roughly between the 1st and 25th December. On this date, Winterval gives way to a season of recuperation and leftovers. Its chief characters are snowmen, reindeer, donkeys and a pleasant, white-bearded gentleman of a friendly disposition. All these things are good and have their place. My family and I will enjoy Winterval as usual.
However, I hope we’ll also find time to celebrate Christmas. Its chief characters are a tradesman, an unmarried pregnant teenager and her baby. Christians believe that this baby, who was born into scandal, mess and foreign occupation, has actually come to inspire and empower us to a brand new way of being together as a community. In this baby, God comes to be with us in every event of life and season of the soul.
In these last two years since I joined the ministry of Frodsham Methodist Church it has been my privilege to come alongside our annual “Time to Remember” service. This time of worship is particularly for those who wish to remember people who they love but have lost. We will light candles and decorate our Christmas tree with memories of those who have died. Some say that this does not sound very “Christmassy”. I am not so sure. I agree that it doesn’t sound like “Winterval”, but it does, I believe, say something about what Christmas is about. Christmas is about truth and reality.
It’s about God making God’s own self known to us and alongside us. I want to suggest that it’s Christmas and not Winterval that the world really needs. Jesus came to share in the reality of life not
some cosy and temporary pretence. If all that is true as I believe, then it’s something that’s really worth celebrating! I invite you to celebrate with us and wish you all a very happy Christmas.
Grace and peace.
Reverend Andrew M. Emison
Over the summer ( what a summer it’s been!), the young people (teenagers) have been involved in a youth weekend in Chester. The theme was serving others and started with a youth service on the Friday evening, followed by activities on the Saturday where groups of young people had various tasks to do in Chester. These ranged from handing out water and cake, to painting a fence and providing sports activities - all free of charge with the idea that we can bless others. We gathered together for another service to finish the weekend on the Saturday. The youth leaders from the surrounding villages are beginning to plan events to bring the young people from our various churches together. We joined together at the end of July for a fun evening in glorious sunshine. The campfire marshmallows went down a treat!
At our own church we have held a KS2 sleepover and the children and adults enjoyed discovering the caves (some for the first time) and thanks to Ric who showed us campfire skills and marshmallows were eaten over the fire. (The fire pit has been well used) All these activities bring people together and gives them an opportunity to learn new things about themselves; social skills to interact with others, and space to learn more about our Christian faith through practical activities, talks and prayer. We live in such an amazing area and the woods and hills around Frodsham were enjoyed by the people who came to our social at the end of July. Finishing with a barbecue at church. There are other activities planned for the coming months - so check our church website and tots at Frodsham Methodist Facebook page.
We send our blessings and good wishes to the five children who left Toddlers to start school this September. I hope they settle in quickly. Others from our church family are starting High School – may they enjoy the new opportunities available to them and know they are in our thoughts and prayers. We welcome new families in September as the Messy Mice group and toddlers continue to run. A large group of families and young people are going together to Greenbelt again this year, some for the first time. A time to listen to speakers, new bands, poets and watch performances; joining 5000 plus for a Sunday Morning service. Last year we had no rain, not sure it that will be the same this year. Happy camping!
As the months unfold may we strive to serve each other, support each other and together discover all that God has in store for us. “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God”. Micah 6:8
Young Families Worker
Many of you will be part of organisations outside of the church and will know that it is becoming increasingly difficult to attract new members to anything, be it a bowling club or a gardening club. People are wary of any sort of commitment. We see it in personal relationships. I’m puzzled when friends say: “we don’t want to get married; it might change things”.
The same is true in the church. People are wary of church membership and the reason I hear most often is not an issue with faith, but a fear that membership makes them eligible for committees! This is not what church membership is about, but in any case, the question our young people challenged us with a few weeks ago was: “Do we come to church to serve or to be served?”
We’re fortunate that we have a God who sees things differently. The bible uses the concept of “covenant” to describe God’s relationship with people. Covenants are agreements but ones which differ from contracts with which we are perhaps more familiar. Contracts are closed, well-defined and based in law. The covenant God makes with us is relational, open-ended and based in God’s unmerited love which we call “grace”. The story of God witnessed to by Scripture is the story of human beings letting God down and yet God refuses to walk away and tries again. Far different from church where one bad experience can lead people to say “I am never going back there again”. We’re flawed people and when things have gone wrong in the past, we’re very sorry.
Church Membership is the way in which Methodists commit themselves to following Jesus Christ in this covenant that God offers us. When we welcome people into membership, we welcome them firstly in the One Church of Jesus Christ, secondly into the church in a particular place and only thirdly into the part of that one church called Methodist. Being received into church
membership is about making the deeply counter-cultural declaration that I am going to commit myself to be part of God’s rescue plan for the world. I am going to be part of this work in this place and I will ask others around me to “watch over me in love” as I seek to do so.
There is nothing I would like more than to discuss Church Membership with any of you. Please get in touch with me or a member of the Leadership Team and we’ll have an informal chat.
Andrew M. Emison
So far, it’s been a busy year and a year where we have seriously considered changes in our church. In a world which is always changing sometimes it's hard to let go of things that are precious to us. God's spirit is a moving spirit and Jesus told his disciples to go and tell people about him and his love for them.
In my work I often search the internet for inspiration and ideas. There is so much we can learn and use in our church journey. May God grant us patience, co-operation, excitement and a passion for him as we go forward. Something that has been running for a long time is our Toddler Group, and June has been declared as the national month of prayer for Christian Toddler Groups. Its theme is “Welcome one, welcome all.” (Luke 19 v1-10).
Over the years many families from Frodsham and beyond have found a home in our group and it seems that each month I welcome new people to the group. Please include our Group in your prayers in June. Looking after young children isn’t easy - I’m sure the carers of little people would appreciate a prayer for patience, energy, fun and a little peace!
Young Families Worker
“It is not good that the man should be alone” says God as he surveys Adam alone in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2:18). The first two chapters of Genesis offer us a description of the world as God intended before everything went wrong as described in Genesis 3 onwards.
From the outset, God affirms that human beings are social by design. In the seventeenth century, the Anglican cleric and metaphysical poet John Donne would write: “No man is an island”. Let’s choose not to focus on the gender questions properly raised by these quotations and simply notice that these insights from scripture and the life of faith in Jesus Christ are completely at odds with a world which preaches that individual prosperity and self-determination are definitions of success. The bible insists in all sorts of different ways that we are created and designed for each other.(Incidentally, I am completely at ease with the fact that evolutionary theory would agree). We are incurably social.
Writing in the late 1950s, the American economist J K Galbraith once remarked that it is ridiculous to retain personal wealth to be able to buy new cars only to drive them on pot-holed roads. Surely this is not a matter of political ideology but rather the relentless pursuit of sheer folly. In an age of pragmatic “glass half full” politics, we are succeeding in telling each other that the glass itself has become a thimble whist all the time growing our fence panels and conifers between us and our neighbours.
Denying our mutual independence is a denial of our humanity. As neighbours in our town, Christian Aid collectors offer their neighbours the opportunity to connect with people of any faith or none through local partnerships established by what is a highly respected non-governmental organisation.
During Christian Aid week in May, one of our Christian Aid collectors walked up an immaculate driveway with an envelope. The greeting on the door read: “No canvassers. No religion. No cold-callers”. Is that our best message we can give to our neighbours? How about, “I would prefer not to buy or discuss religion or politics at the door, but I wish you and yours well. Grace and peace”?
As a consequence, communities up and down our nation are becoming aware of a growing epidemic of loneliness. Churches Together in Frodsham are looking at how we can partner with community leaders to bring people together. If you have ideas of how we can tackle loneliness in our community, let us know.
Grace and peace.
Andrew M. Emison
In Acts 2: 46-47 we have an insight of how the first followers of Jesus lived – being together, learning, sharing and eating. Following in these footsteps we are beginning to try something new here at church: Tea@5. Come and share in a simple meal, followed by games, craft, prayers and exploring different parts of the Bible. Open to anyone of any age. Donations towards the cost of food. For more details or to let us know you are coming ring 07749877823.
One way we help each other is through our children’s toy and clothes Good as New Sale Thursday, which is on April 26th this year. 9.30 -12noon and 7.30-8.30pm. You decide how much you would like to sell items for, label them up and bring the day before or on the morning of the sale. 75% of the sell comes back to you. Look out for more details near the time.
Vice-President Jill Baker visited our District recently and lead a Lay Employees' day about Pilgrimage and the place called Bethel found in the Old Testament. It was interesting to hear that Bethel over the years was a place where people found God’s presence and went to seek wisdom, but eventually became a place of pagan worship. This reminded me that places, people and situations change. Dare I suggest that staying the same isn’t an option? Just as each day dawns and brings new opportunities and challenges, may we ask God to strengthen us, re energise and guide us for what lies ahead. Jill has discovered that spending some time in silence has helped her to stay connected to God, and perhaps this Lent time you may like to try and find 15 minutes of silence in each day. Perhaps reading from the Bible, praying, listening or just resting in God’s presence.
The President’s theme for this year is exploring the rhythm of mission and discipleship, and the booklet, Day by Day, contains prayer to help you explore prayer day by day. This little booklet can be found in church if you want to pick one up. One of the prayers -
Creator God, whose Word, at the dawn of time gave light and life; receive my praise. Jesus Christ, companion on the way, listening, healing; forgive my self-centredness. Holy spirit, giver of energy and love; Source of grace and courage; fill me today.
Young Families Worker
One of the features of Jesus’ ministry that I notice over and over again is the way which Jesus seems to welcome all the so-called “wrong” people. The company that Jesus chooses sets fingers-wagging and tut-tutting.
As a church which seeks to be shaped by the example of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus we aspire to be similarly inclusive. In January our Church Council adopted an Inclusivity statement. It deliberately uses conversational language rather than that of a formal policy statement. It will shortly be displayed around the church building. It reads as follows:
We welcome everyone whether you are single, married, divorced, widowed, gay,
confused, rich or poor. We hope that you feel able to belong, whatever your
gender, sexuality, mental health, physical health, ability, race or ethnicity.
We welcome children; wailing babies, excited toddlers, even those that wiggle,
giggle, cry or are shy.
We welcome you whether you can sing like Pavarotti or prefer to just growl
quietly to yourself.
You’re welcome here if you’re just browsing, just woken up, or have just left
prison. We don’t care if you are more Christian than the Archbishop of
Canterbury or haven’t been to church since Christmas ten years ago.
We welcome YOU, whoever you may be.
It’s our hope that together we will experience the width, length, height and
depth of God’s love for us in Jesus and understand our sacred worth.
Unfortunately we don’t have any perfect people here. We all have hang-ups and
we get things wrong. We’re not yet who God is calling us to be either as
individuals or as a church. Please help us to understand each other’s needs
better so that all of our colours can shine as God intended.
We believe that through the power of the Holy Spirit, we can learn to follow
Jesus Christ together.
This is our dream.
We need each other.
We need YOU!
Our inclusivity statement is aspirational. We recognise that we are not yet where we need to be. We don’t yet provide the best welcome that we could to wheelchair users for example. It also seeks to reflect our brokenness. At Frodsham Methodist Church we have different opinions on some of the issues raised. Part of being an inclusive church is that we belong together despite the fact that we hold different views sincerely. I believe that this is normal within the church of Jesus Christ. Living with difference can be costly. A Jesus-shaped church is one which like Jesus, bears pain so that God and people can be held together.
Grace and peace.
Andrew M. Emison
An afternoon of Fun! In October we opened our doors and invited people to attend an afternoon of fun. Many, many people from tiny babies to eighty-year olds came and enjoyed each other's company as well as the varied activities on offer. There will be other afternoons next year for us all to enjoy.
Another event which you are invited to is our Community Nativity on Sunday 17th December at 10.45. We all take part in telling the Christmas story through words, song and talking parts, dressed as a character from the Christmas story. Anyone, young and old, is welcome to dress up!
The Knitted Travelling Crib is available for you to have for a couple of nights during December. The figures are made of wool and are ready to be cared for, played with and looked after during this time. Let Andrea know if you would like a slot on 07749877823. And don’t forget - Toddlers' Christmas Party is on Thursday 21st December.
Wishing you God ’s blessing for the Christmas season and beyond.
Young Families Worker
The 25th of December marks the beginning of the church’s celebration of Christmas and the end of everyone else’s. When Christmas Day finally arrives, children’s parties at school are a distant memory and office parties are best forgotten! The season will end for many as they nurse their stomachs listening to HM The Queen at 3pm. I am being too cynical of course! However, even in the church, the season of Advent which begins this year on Sunday 3rd December will be overtaken by Christmas services starting around 17th December. I often wonder if we shouldn’t start Advent two weeks earlier so that we can observe it fully. I think Advent is important, not because I am particularly worried about observing “the church year”, but because of the prominence of advent themes in the bible. Prof. Tom Wright observes that if we cut Christmas out of the bible, we lose about three chapters. Cut out advent themes and we lose half of the Old Testament and most of the New.
The story of scripture which finds its centre around a manger and a cross, is about God’s presence being experienced precisely in times of deepest loss and darkness. God’s promises are found to be true when it is almost too late for them to be fulfilled. Locating Christmas at the end of Advent gives our celebration its proper context. Its light shines all the more brightly because of the contrast that Advent sharpens. Tinsel and sentimentality cannot survive the raw honesty of Advent.
I’m so pleased to be associated with our annual “Remembrance Service” for those of us who have lost loved ones. I say “associated” because as many of your will know, the real work is done by our pastoral team. I’m glad that our Christmas (Advent?) Tree is decorated with the memories and feelings of loss associated with the season which are felt by so many. Sometimes these services in other churches are called “Blue Christmas Services”. I think that they are just “Christmas Services”, because that’s what we celebrate.
Entering unexpectedly, mysteriously into the deepest darkness of our world and lives, comes God in Jesus to share in it fully.
God with us. God for us. There is nothing more Christmassy than realising that great truth. For me, that really is something worth celebrating. Grace and peace.
Andrew M. Emison
When the Trinity Methodist Church War Memorial (now sited at Frodsham Methodist Church) was restored in 2015 as part of the work of the World War I Commemoration Group marking the centenary of the First World War, one of the names originally engraved on it was almost illegible. The group set about checking records to see if there was information about who this might have been. After a great deal of photo taking and discussion, the group decided that the renovated memorial would have space for the unknown name and that one day someone might trace it and we could then inscribe it in its rightful place.
Looking for the missing name was difficult, though the group was fairly sure that the engraving looked like ‘Effie Saxon (Nurse)’. Searches of the World War I archives showed that there were two E Saxons who died during the Great War. Of the two names, Ethel Saxon seemed the most likely, though the group still could not link her directly with Frodsham. It was known that her grandfather was a primitive Methodist minister and further research revealed that the family lived in Runcorn during part of his ministry, although the family later moved to South Wales.
When the Territorial Forces records for nurses became available in 2016, it was possible to acquire copies of her service records. Normally these are about 2 or 3 pages long - Ethel's ran to 147 pages. It transpired that her father had bombarded the War Office with letters about her effects and missing salary and had also asked whether the authorities were prepared to erect memorials to the nurses who had been killed or had died during the conflict. In the paperwork, there was reference to a Mrs E Thornton of Frodsham as the person to whom all mail should be directed. Further searching established that Mrs Thornton was Ethel's aunt and that she lived at Deyne Court, the large Edwardian house next to Trinity Methodist Church. When Ethel was sent to work as a nurse she went to Liverpool, not to Cardiff, so perhaps she had come to Frodsham then. Ethel’s name was duly inscribed on the War Memorial in the spring of 2016 and this is her story.
Ethel’s links with Frodsham exist because her grandfather was a Primitive Methodist Minister whose ministry brought him to Runcorn in the 1880s. Revd Joseph Morton and his wife Jane lived at 17 Waterloo Road, Runcorn at the time of the 1881 census. They had seven daughters and four sons. By 1991 the family had moved to Llangattock in Breconshire. This was where Ethel’s mother, Adelaide, the fourth of the seven daughters, met and married builder Henry Saxon. Henry’s own family had originally come from Warrington. He and Adelaide brought up their family in South Wales. Meanwhile, the Revd Morton’s eldest daughter, Charlotte Evangeline, had remained in Cheshire, married local insurance company manager William Thornton and lived for some time in Frodsham.
Ethel was born in 1890 in Abertillery, when her parents, Henry and Adelaide Saxon, lived at 38 Oak Street. By 1901 they had moved to 104 High Street, Abersychan and now had three daughters - Ethel, Mary Augusta and Lucy. By the time of the 1911 census, Ethel and her sister Augusta were listed as living with their grandfather, Aaron Saxon, retired Assistant Superintendent of Assurance at Park View, Pontrewynydd. Ethel’s occupation states that she was a ‘mothers’ help’. Whilst Adelaide and Henry Saxon remained in South Wales and eventually retired to Kingsland in Herefordshire, Mrs Saxon’s sister, Charlotte Evangeline spent her life in Cheshire. She had been born in Preston in 1860 and married William Ebert Thornton in 1884 in Warrington. In 1891 the Thorntons lived in Padgate (Warrington) with the three eldest of their children - Francis Harry, Ella, and Nellie. Mr Thornton was an insurance agent. The two youngest children, Eric and Phyllis, were born in Frodsham, which places them here from about 1895, though Mr Thornton’s business (Insurance Agent) is listed in Kelly’s Directory for Warrington of that year. 10 years later they had moved to Liscard (Wirral) and lived with the now retired Revd Morton and only Eric was at home with them. Other census records suggest that the girls were away at school. On the 1911 census, Eric, was a boarder at the Groves School, Wrexham. This is where the census records become something of a mystery. In 1911 Mr Thornton gives their address as Deynecourt, Frodsham (High Street) next to Trinity Methodist Church. However, the address given on the outside of the census form is 14 Dunster Gardens, Kilburn, NW and they also had the youngest Morton sister living with them. Meanwhile their elder son, Francis Harry and his sisters Ella and Nellie are shown separately at Deynecourt, where Francis was ‘in charge’.
No doubt as a Methodist family, the Thorntons attended Trinity Methodist Church. Charlotte Evangeline died in Headington, Oxford in 1925 and her husband at Edzell Lodge, Iverleith Terrace, Edinburgh in 1939, though he was buried at Warrington cemetery. Eric’s war service records show that he joined the Royal Air Force in 1915. When he died in 1973, his address was given as ‘Deynecourt, Storrington (Sussex) - so the name of the family’s home in Frodsham had gone with him into later life. As we have seen, Ethel trained as a nurse, and was sent to work in Liverpool, not in Cardiff as one might expect. Given that the younger members of the Morton and Saxon families lived variously with their grandparents or with other relatives, it is quite possible that Ethel may also have lived with, or at least frequently visited, her aunt at Deynecourt. After the outbreak of World War I, she was posted to India with the Territorial Nursing Force, where she served in Karachi. The Karachi Port Trust Building was converted into a 500 bed hospital in 1915 and Ethel seems to have been working there at the time of her death. She died of acute appendicitis on 3 September 1917 and is named on the India Gate, New Delhi. She is also named on nurses’ memorials in Liverpool Cathedral and York Minster, and on the war memorial in Kingsland, Herefordshire, her parents home after their retirement. Her family wrote many letters in an attempt to retrieve her belongings and it was to her aunt Charlotte Evangeline in Frodsham that these were eventually returned after the War. Given that she is honoured in so many places, we are privileged that she is also named here in Frodsham.
Blog posts written by the Minister and Members of Frodsham Methodist Church.