“We want a fresh moral vision of the kind of country we want to be.” So wrote the bishops of the Anglican Church in February in a strongly-worded attack on Britain’s political culture in the run-up to the general election. And they called on all Christians to use their vote “even though it may have to be a vote for something less than a vision that inspires us”.
The Saturday after the publication of this letter, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, was the keynote speaker at a conference in Coventry organised by the Joint Public Issues Team (JPIT) which campaigns on behalf of the Baptist, Methodist and URC churches, and which we (John and Elizabeth) were fortunate to attend. The conference was entitled ‘Love your Neighbour: Think, Pray, Vote’, and encouraged participants to bring their understanding of the gospel to bear on their voting intentions in May.
The Archbishop gave an inspiring address, skilfully weaving his way through the issues without taking any sort of party political line. He encouraged us to be hopeful about our society, to celebrate the good things that have been done by recent governments, and to rejoice in the freedom that we have to discuss these issues openly. At the same time we should not be complacent, but ask challenging questions about how inequality is to be lessened and about how we become a fairer society, taking better care of the poor and vulnerable. He said that as Christians, following a God of love and justice, “We speak out because loving our neighbour is in our DNA.” He urged us to challenge cynicism wherever we found it, (and was overtly critical of Russell Brand’s message of nihilism). He urged us not just to ‘think, pray and vote’ but also to ACT. By doing so we could ‘change the wind’ and help to bring about a fairer, more just and equitable society where all may flourish.
The conference then broke up into workshops – choosing which two to attend was really difficult, as they all looked inspiring! We finally chose to go together to one on climate change first. This was a little disappointing, as it rather dodged the big scientific issues and homed in on the need to live more simply and sustainably (though that in itself was challenging).
After lunch, John went to a workshop on poverty, and I did ‘Preaching and Praying Social Justice’. You may already have noticed that’s a bit of a hobby-horse of mine! Again, there was much to inspire and challenge.
The day ended with Rev Ruth Gee, former President of the Methodist Conference, preaching on words from Micah chapter 6, verse 8 – “What does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”
The letter of James
Since the beginning of this year we have been studying the letter of James, since he addresses subjects that we thought are still very relevant to our everyday lives. We started by challenging people to find it in the bible! Then handed out bookmarks to help us return to the letter each time. We covered topics like putting our faith to work and acted out the parable of the Good Samaritan; we read what James had to say about being slow to anger and thought about ways to control our anger and we thought about the destructive potential of our tongues. Simon offered us an excellent way to remember: we should ThiNK before we speak/ text – is it True? Is it Necessary to say it? And is it Kind?
We have had good feedback that studying a book in the Bible has been useful, so we will try it again in the future.
11 years of 0930live!
In February we celebrated 11 years of 0930live! and gave thanks to God for his strength and grace that have enabled so many people to be involved in and enjoy this form of regular worship. We hope that He has great plans for us over this next year.
This year is the first that 0930live! does not fall on Palm Sunday or Easter Sunday.
Therefore we have to be creative about how we tell this amazingly important story. We are planning a contemplative review of the themes from James prior to Good Friday and then plenty of praise in the weeks following Easter. We do hope that you can join us at these services.
Community and Schools Worker
During the last few weeks I have been talking to the young people about what they would like the Church to offer them over this year. They have come up with some great ideas and hopefully some of these will go ahead shortly. Watch this space! (Help will be needed to make this happen) If I haven’t caught up with you yet, give me a ring.
At the beginning of March I helped at a youth event called ‘Engage Chester,’ run by people from different churches within Chester for young people in year 7 upwards. The kids did a variety of activities from circus skills to washing road signs, as well as games, worship and raising money for the local Hospice. It’s well worth going to. I will let you know when the next one is.
Toddlers and Messy Mice are as popular as ever. Creating space for new people to feel at home in, support for adults and fun for children.
Recently in assembly Pippa Jacobson (Community and Schools Worker) and I reminded the children about how unique they are and how special to God they are; that it’s OK to be different and good to learn from each other.
Young Families Worker
It's been lovely to celebrate with family and friends the occasion of my Mum Janet's 60th Birthday at the end of January. Friends travelled from all over Cheshire (including from Frodsham), from Essex, Hampshire and Bristol. Around 85 people shared in the afternoon party - mum was on good form and enjoyed every single moment!
Our very own Harry Leather brilliantly entertained us, and Frodsham's Nick Smith also did us proud with the catering. It was a wonderful event! I had friends staying here at the Manse with me that weekend, and it was precious to have time to spend with those people who have supported Mum and I over the last 7 and a half years. They are part of my family too!
One of the nicest things to come out of the celebration of Mum's 60th birthday stems from our decision to ask for donations to the Dr William Larmour English Charity. This is a long standing charity based in Haslington, where Mum lives, where the local Doctors Surgery gives a grant to two or three people a year on the basis of how poorly they are and what their life expectancy is. Mum was the recipient of one of these grants in 2012 which enabled us to have a holiday in Whitby, which we have very fond memories of. We were grateful to receive £500 and I am thrilled and humbled that the very kind and generous donations for Mum's birthday amounted to £640 which we have given to the charity to enable another family to have a recuperative holiday. It was thrilling to think that a family event of ours might benefit someone else who might be going through a very difficult time at the moment.
This year as a church family we are thinking more intentionally about Anti Human Trafficking - in prayer, awareness raising and in financial support. This is for the International Justice Mission and Salvation Army International. It was wonderful to see churches in Frodsham as well as other friends (Soroptomists) working so hard together to create the 'Pop Up Shop' on Church Street in February. It was packed each time I walked through the door - both with enthusiastic volunteers and eager bargain hunters! And from that something in the region of £2500 has been raised for the Salvation Army Human Trafficking Support Fund. What a great achievement (alongside a huge amount of work). Well done to all concerned, and in particular our own members Stephen and Hillary Pickett.
Isn't it amazing what can be done when people come together with a common aim, or with mutual support, to help someone else? We are an Easter People - who believe in a Resurrection God. "Nothing is impossible for God", we are reminded in Luke's Gospel. In the remainder of this year (yes, it is Easter already!) what are your plans to make a difference? How will you leave a mark this year? Some of you already have, in very tangible ways, and many of you in quieter and more hidden ways. But isn't it amazing when we do things with a common purpose and achieve something? Doesn't it make us glad to be alive, to be followers of Jesus Christ, and to be those who can do so much more when we do it together and for a shared goal?
What else can we achieve and celebrate under God this year? If you have any good news stories to share please send them in for subsequent copies of the Newsletter so we can all be encouraged together.
God bless you,
Rev'd. Denise Harding
Blog posts written by the Minister and Members of Frodsham Methodist Church.