Our walk in April was part of the Frodsham Festival of Walks and was led by Kevin and Sue Fairbanks. About 60 people met at Appleton Thorn to start our 4 mile walk though the Lumb Brook Valley, into the Dingle and along the Mersey Way, and into the Walled Garden at Grappenhall Heys, returning to our cars through woodland and field edges. We returned tired and a little bit muddy to have tea and cake at Frodsham Methodist Church.
KRDP Update ...
Gill Morgan writes “We have been very grateful for the support we are receiving from you as a church, as you are supporting our charity, and we hope that these articles in your magazine are helping to explain some of the various aspects of our work in Eastern Uganda, to help you understand a little more of how your money, and your prayers, are helping. This article is more about a personal visit made by myself and Gareth last autumn, with a few forays into the work of our charity too.
You may already be aware that we have been involved in our work in Uganda since 1997, when Gareth first made a visit to Uganda with the late Dr John Maitland, whom some of you may remember. On that occasion the seeds were sown for the beginnings of what has since become our charity, KRDP, the more formal aspect of it happening when Gareth took a sabbatical in 2000, spending two months in this rural part of Uganda. African time is somewhat different to the UK way of doing things, even things such as setting up a bank account can take a week, so the two months
were pretty well taken up. Initially we thought we would be helping in small ways: we were able to fund the purchase of school text books, medicines for the clinic and similar small projects, but events took a different turn and we have instead found ourselves funding much bigger projects: a church/community centre, school classrooms, and improvements to the clinic (which had already been started before we were involved). With small beginnings God has widened our vision.
Shortly after Gareth's return from his sabbatical in 2000 his mother died. Donations given in her memory at her funeral were offered to the Ugandan branch of KRDP for a 'special project', and they requested a church be built in her memory. This went ahead, and some 18 months later a group of our family, including Gareth's father, went out to be part of the opening and dedication of the church.
Gareth's dad - Eric - was 78 when he first came with us for the dedication of the church, and we all assumed that it would be a one-off visit. Most years since then a group of us has gone out to see how the project is developing - while we don't do practical, hands on work ourselves, there are always developments to see; it is important both to us and to our friends out there that we maintain contact. Thus it was that two years after his initial visit Eric asked if he could join us again; 'I'm going
to be 80 this year", he said, "I'd like to come just one more time". 'Just one more time' became nine more visits; Eric joined us on every visit we undertook from then til he was 91, and was beginning to find the travel a little more than he could manage.
Uganda became like a second home to him; he made many firm friends, and he gained the respect of the whole community out there; the elderly in Uganda enjoy a respect probably not known in our own society. He became known as 'Papa Eric', a name to which he became very attached.
Thus it was that last November, Gareth and I took a special, personal trip out to Uganda. Eric had died in June of last year, and - while he had never expressed a desire in this way at all - we both decided that we'd like to take some of his ashes out to the place which had become so special to him; to have our own private 'goodbye' to the Papa Eric with whom we'd travelled out there on so many occasions.
We had also been invited to a wedding out there - and we had never been to a Ugandan wedding - so this dual purpose visit, combining both a happy event and a sad one, began to fall into place. The wedding came first, in a part of Uganda we had never visited before. We hadn't given a definite reply to the wedding (this sort of thing can happen in Uganda, not here in the UK of course!), so our being there came as a total surprise to both the bride and groom. They were delighted we were there and we had a fantastic day!
The following day we set off on the long drive to the village of Kimaluli Butta, where our work is based. We had a wonderful welcome, as always, and since the ashes scattering was to be a private thing (culturally it would not have gone down too well, this being a country whose traditions don't embrace cremation), we were hoping for a bit of peace to quietly wander off and do this. It was a full three days before we had the opportunity! Having thought that this could have been a somewhat emotional thing for us, we instead found ourselves chuckling as we set about scattering ashes around Eric's favourite places within the village, wondering what he would have had to say about it!
At one point we were aware that the vicar was approaching; we waved politely and explained that we were just going for a short walk hoping for few minutes 'to remember Papa Eric'; the vicar waved understandingly and left us in peace, little knowing our real mission!
This was to be a trip to remember. Despite the personal aspect of this trip we still needed to see progress on our projects out there. We visited the clinic and saw an immunisation clinic in progress as well as an ante natal clinic; we were pleased to see that Family Planning is being prioritised, something which the culture is taking time to accept for various reasons. A particular highlight to me was to be able to visit the school where our 'Shout out for the Girls' project, which I described in the last issue of the magazine, has made links, and I was able to meet some of the girls we are helping.
We left an electric sewing machine with them which they will use to make more packs of their own. Even though they are a fairly large girls school they had no machine of their own.
If you would like to know more about the work of our charity there is to be an evening, on Tuesday April 24th at Frodsham Methodist Church, when we will talking more about the work of KRDP with lots of photos which should help bring things alive a little more - along with crafts for sale. We'd love to see you there!”
Over the last year the Chester and Delamere Forest Circuit has been raising funds to support Cheshire Search and Rescue. At the last Circuit meeting a cheque for £10,589.66 was presented to representatives from Cheshire Search and Rescue. Many thanks to all those who helped to raise this magnificent amount. The funds will be used to provide up to date radios for the Search and Rescue team.
A big thank you to all who helped in the kitchen on Tuesday for the Pancake Party. We made hundreds of pancakes for the hundred plus people who came through the door to mark Shrove Tuesday.
A big thank you to everyone who supported the recent ‘Singalong with Equinox’. After expenses, £1,400 was raised and will be split between Frodsham Methodist Church and Rotary Charities.
Frank and Valarie Ball
Good to be joined by those from the other churches in Frodsham for our annual New Year's Eve Ecumenical Service today.
A very Happy and Blessed Christmas from all at Frodsham Methodist Church.
Pictures from our Christmas Service this morning at 10am when we shared the Good News of Christ, and our presents, with others!
Church is packed with over 150 people this evening for the annual Singalong at Christmas with ‘Equinox’. Right now it is time for mince pies and tea/coffee!
Good to see so many at our Community Nativity Service 2017. See you at 4pm today for Carols by Candlelight!
The President and Vice-President of the Methodist Conference, The Rev'd. Loraine N. Mellor and Jill Baker, have released their 2017 Christmas message on the subject of visitation.
Visiting is at the heart of Christmas. In the birth of Jesus, God became a guest in God’s own world - what an amazing truth that is! The familiar Bible stories which will be told and re-told again this Christmas in churches, schools, homes and on television and radio will remind us of many other visits too; Gabriel visits Mary, Mary visits Elizabeth, the angels visit the shepherds, the shepherds visit the Holy Family, the magi come from distant lands, following a star to visit the new-born King... some of those visits were long-planned, others happened spontaneously. Whether or not we feel organized and “ready” for Christmas now, there is a place for everyone at the manger.
In these first six months in our roles as President and Vice-President of the Methodist Conference, Loraine and I have also been doing lots of visiting. Between us I think we have been in around 25 different districts for one reason or another, Loraine has also been to Fiji and Uganda, I have been to Ethiopia and, earlier in the year, to Russia. We think we have slept in around 50 different beds in total! We are both so grateful for the hospitality shown to us and the generosity of individuals, churches, circuits and districts who have always made us welcome – who have always ensured that there is “room at the inn”. Often there have been special little touches to make us feel at home; decaffeinated coffee for both of us, for example!
Already during this year we have made new friends, spoken with many of our Methodist people, had some challenging and wonderful conversations, visited churches and cathedrals, holiday camps, food banks, palaces, new buildings, historic buildings, homes, shopping centres, new urban villages, rural villages, and so much more. Very recently we joined in with the brilliant3-Generate weekend in Southport. I loved every minute and learned so much about how our children and young people, all 1200 of them, from all around the Connexion, have so much to offer us and how they want to change the world. They were ‘wonderfully prophetic’ (which was the theme of the weekend) as they made their voices heard and talked about the things they believed God was calling them to and how God was moving through them in the world today. They were truly inspirational; I stood in awe and admiration; that visit has changed me.
So we want to reflect a little further on this idea of visitation as we share greetings with you this Christmas.
The former Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Coggan said, ‘When God intends to make something wonderful he begins with a difficulty. When he intends to make something very wonderful, he begins with an impossibility. I often think about the visit which started off the whole story; Gabriel being sent to Mary in Nazareth and wonder what it might have been like from Gabriel’s point of view:
On a very dusty humid day in late April I found myself standing outside a simple home. As I just sort of landed in front of Mary she looked nervous and afraid and backed away. ‘Do not be afraid, I bring you greetings’. I sounded a bit like a taped message so I lowered my voice and changed the script a bit, ‘Mary love, you are going to have a baby… now I know this is a bit of a shock. She looked horrified! ‘This baby is very very special and it's God's son’. By this time she was as white as a sheet; I ploughed on, ‘Mary you have been especially chosen’; I knew what that felt like! Boy was this hard; I was beginning to wonder if she would ever speak to me. ‘God has chosen you to give birth to his Son, you are a special person, you are precious to God’. At that moment the whole atmosphere changed, and at last she spoke, this young girl, this vulnerable, frightened person spoke and her voice was soft and gentle, ‘Me chosen, why?’
Of course we know how the story continues; that visit changed the course of history as Mary found the courage to accept her role. Praise the Lord!
Perhaps not quite so dramatically, but at a different level, every visit has the potential to change things. Making each visit count, making each visit special, learning and sharing something significant in each place, is part of the joy and challenge of our year, but perhaps also part of the joy and challenge of this season for all of us. As we receive visitors, can we show the grace and openness that Mary showed; and as we visit others, can we do so with the care of the magi? Christmas might also be a good time to make an unplanned visit – perhaps to someone who will be spending time on their own, or in hospital – let’s do that with the enthusiasm of the shepherds!
As we all reflect on the visits we have made in this last year in the light of the Christmas story, I find myself thinking about a shepherd I met on a remote mountainside in Ethiopia in August. Through the work of All We Can and their partner organization on the ground, he was now rearing a different breed of sheep, which was more profitable. This meeting had a timeless quality about it. It was not difficult to imagine angels appearing, good news being announced, a journey into the nearest town ensuing and I again felt wonder and joy at the ordinariness which runs through the extraordinary story of the birth in Bethlehem. No-one was excluded then. No-one should be excluded now. The shepherd, Gretachew, told us that he was also a part-time priest in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. "You're a shepherd and a priest?" I asked; he nodded, “A bit like Jesus?" I suggested; he beamed.
This Christmas our prayer is that you might visit the manger once more and know in your hearts the coming of the Christ child, to worship and to hear again this fantastic story of incarnation, of joy and of wonder and give thanks for this marvellous gift and that we might all, through the visits we make and receive, change the world.
O come all ye faithful joyful and triumphant.
Come ye, O come ye to Bethlehem;
Come and behold him, born the king of angels;
O come let us adore him, Christ the Lord.
To view on YouTube, please click here.
For an audio only version of the message, please click here.
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