The Diary of a President September and October 2016
Summer breaks are over and the pace of Presidential visits is increasing. It was my pleasure, on Sunday 5 September, to lead worship and preach at Orsett Community Church in South Essex. The photos are old ones from last year's Harvest festival but we looked at the story of the potter and the clay this Sunday. I don't know if it counts as "Messy Church" but everyone, whatever age, made a pot from salt dough but we realised that our God is a God of Restarts, Renewal, Remodelling and Recycling - even the most misshapen of us can be made fit for purpose by the Master Potter.
Wednesday 7 September was Pastoral Care Board Meeting day. This was quite a long and intense day where we thought about the main functions of the PCB and emphasised to Council's Working Group the three main functions of the PCB (in no particular order!!)
We are the carers, pastorally, of the Ministers and their families, retired Ministers, and students. We asked "Who pastors the pastors?" That is our job through the Area Representatives on the PCB.
We supervise all safeguarding matters for the Federation, both through the Safeguarding Certificates and by monitoring the DBS certificates that all Ministers, students and church workers should have.
Finally, we are the guardians of the Accredited Roll of Ministries. We recommend people to be admitted to the Rolls and, sadly but rarely, we recommend the removal of people from the Rolls who are no longer in good standing.
We feel that these functions are essential to the work of the Federation and are of vital importance. We hope you feel supported and protected by the work of this Board.
September 8 was the start of the Training Weekend in Nottingham. This was a particularly difficult weekend - not because of the students or the tutors, of course, but because this weekend marks the start of our students' time with York St John, our new validating University. The liaison has meant that induction sessions have had to be provided together with more face-to-face time and altered teaching. All this alongside ongoing students with Winchester. Instead of the usual Friday evening to Sunday lunchtime programme we had Thursday lunchtime till Sunday late afternoon. Intensive, tiring but so satisfying.
The students and tutors from the Training Weekend had the pleasure of joining with the Congregational Centre in Nottingham for a time of worship on Sunday. The service was prepared by Oliver Kinchin and myself, ably assisted by our accredited friends completing their Pastoral Period, Linda Stevenson, Foday Komara and Joy Leathers. This was a most enjoyable and uplifting service when we had the opportunity to use the keyboard newly bought by the church and the students. It sounded wonderful and was so well played. An asset to our worship.
Last week we took a day off on September 14 to celebrate a delayed birthday for me, my wife and a friend. In the morning we went to the top of the Shard in central London. We were blessed with a fine day so the views were fantastic. we even saw Tower Bridge raised to let a Thames barge pass through. And they tell me that some people work in this building (I would never get any work done looking at the view), visit a restaurant here and even LIVE in apartments in the tower! That was just the morning.
In the afternoon we enjoyed a helicopter ride over central London. Starting from Battersea we followed the course of the Thames viewing Craven Cottage, The Oval, The Eye, Houses of Parliament, Downing Street and near to Buckingham Palace. It was a fantastic birthday treat!
Saturday 17 September and we are back into committee season. It was Christian Ministries Committee this time, in Manchester! That would have been a long day with long journeys from London, but there was a railway embankment at Watford that decided it no longer wanted to be an embankment. It preferred being a blanket covering the railway line. So the journey from London was via Sheffield and started at 5am. Still, the last part was on the Transpennine Express through the lovely countryside of the Peaks. The meeting was good (as committees go!) And then the trudge home!
Sunday 18 September saw me preaching and leading worship at my local Baptist Church where my friend, medical teacher, tutor, partner and associate is in membership. Lovely time with old friends. Chose to tackle the parable of the shrewd manager - not easy but we teased out the deeper meanings of the story.
Tuesday 20 September and I attended an excellent Like-Wise event at North Nibley Congregational Church. A lovely building in a rural situation but such enthusiasm! Great speakers and hospitality. It just goes to show what can be done in a rural situation. Inspirational.
On 21 September I spent a day offering pastoral support to the staff of our Nottingham and Manchester offices. Our staff do an excellent job for us and need our prayerful support. They are invaluable.
23 September was one of my regular trips to York St John University in York. Great time, great supervision meeting. Fantastic!! Opportunities like this are really encouraging.
Saturday 24 September and it was another trip to Nottingham (What a busy week!) Manchester, East London, North Nibley, Nottingham, York, Nottingham and the Isle of Sheppey - all in 9 days!!! The trip on Saturday 24th was to attend the Mission and Society Meeting. This was a great meeting with lots of good work achieved and with a good feeling of co-operation. Constructive progress and a real concern for the churches. A blessing!
Sunday 25 September. It was a joy to lead the Harvest Festival Service for Bethel Chapel on the Isle of Sheppey. A lovely service, the chapel was beautifully decorated with imagination including different items - coal, hops, milk, sugar, water and bread as well as the usual harvest items. Perishable items were sold for charity, non-perishables were collected for the Food Bank and we had a lovely Harvest Lunch after the service!
Friday 30 September. On the way to the Eastern Area Assembly in North Walsham we made a small diversion to Cromer for fish and chips at the seaside.
We also stopped off to visit Cromer Parish Church on 30 September. This was an example to us all about how to attract people. There was a lightness and freshness to the building and the people were welcoming and friendly. One chapel was set aside for prayer with a cross to pin prayers to and a "flame" on the altar representing the Holy Spirit.
There was even a designated buggy park and lots of information about activities.
The Eastern Area Assembly was on 1 October at North Walsham. This is a lovely church with a warm heart. About 30 people attended from 10 churches and there was discussion about "What can your Area do to support the churches".
Sunday 2 October and I visited Anchor Church, Wandsworth to take their morning service. This church was near to closing but now has been revived to the point that they are calling a new Minister in the New Year. Great interactive service followed by an excellent lunch cooked by their "Pastor to be" Nigel, followed again by the church meeting.
Finally for this busy weekend, a visit to Dundonald Church in Wimbledon to take their afternoon service. This is a busy church with lots of activities. As I was leaving they were setting up for table tennis in the evening
I don't usually comment on individuals on my visits but I must say how blessed the church are in music. I brought the sheet music for "Jesus, the start of it all" hoping that we might be able to sing this lovely song. The musicians on keyboard and guitar had learnt it within five minutes and led us so well.
Friday 9 October was the day of the service to celebrate the life of Ray Soulsby from Hillesborough Tabernacle. I was blessed to share in this service. I knew Ray from his service as the Pastoral Care Board Member for the North East Area. Ray did not say much but when he did it was said quietly and it was always worth hearing.
I sat in the peace of the chapel before the start of the service contemplating what a debt of gratitude we owe to people like Ray within the churches, the Areas and the Federation for all the voluntary service given so willingly.
Weeping may last through the night but joy comes with the morning.
10 October was a day when I had no official duties and so I could share worship with my local independent church where I can just be an ordinary worshiper in the congregation. It is such a joy to be able to relax and just WORSHIP God in the company of friends who accept us just as we are - welcome visitors with no expectations made.
Tuesday 11 October. Time for an hour with my Spiritual Adviser. I really do value these times that he takes out of his busy day to sit and share and pray with me. He is "outside" our Congregational system, independent and objective but we agree on so many important areas of Christian life. Thank God for wise and caring people.
Saturday 15 October. It was a joy to join with friends from the North East Area at their Assembly at Kipping Congregational Church near Bradford. It was a long day using a total of 11 stages of transport and involving over 15 hours of travel!
Three quarters of the churches in the Area were represented - not many Areas can claim that!
The churches brought news about their activities and it was great to hear how well things were going with lots of new ventures.
Saturday 15 October. Walking along Kipping Market Street in Thornton towards Kipping Congregational Church when I came across a very unexpected find. The Bronte birthplace! It is in this unassuming place that four of the Bronte family were born - Charlotte in 1816, Patrick Bramwell in 1817, Emily Jane in 1818 and Ann in 1820. Presidential visits sometimes result in unexpected but very welcome discoveries!
Sunday 16 October and I had a chance to preach and lead worship at my home church at Orsett in Essex. They always want to hear the news of where I have been on my journeys and they also want to ensure that I am taking their greetings to all the churches and Areas that I visit. It was also a delight to visit one of the churches closer to my home to lead evening worship at Pilgrims Way, East Ham. As we were a smaller group for the evening service we met in the Chapel for a more intimate time.
They tell me that they use the church for morning service because they have 80 - 100 attending
October 19. Winchester Cathedral. It was really wonderful to share the day with our fantastic graduates from our training scheme: Carl Incledon, Justin Lunniss and Beth Rushmer who received their FdA, and Peter Butler, Ken Hague, Joy Langford and Oliver Kinchin who have completed their BA. We missed Chris Bond, Darren Darlow and James Gregory who were, unfortunately, unable to join us for their graduation. These Graduates are a real credit to the Federation and particularly to Janet Wootton, Director of Studies and her fantastic team of Tutors. Congratulations to everyone on behalf of the whole Federation.
30 October. We took time out over half term to go away with some of our family and spend some quality time with them.
Arriving back after flight delays on Saturday evening, I went straight back to work preaching and leading worship at 10.00 on Sunday!
I visited Hainault Baptist Church in East London by invitation. It is a joy to share greetings as I travel to different churches around the country. Most of the churches I visit are Congregational Churches but there is an occasional visit to a church of another denomination.
Saturday 5 November. We were privileged to share in the wedding of Rev and Mrs Kinchin, otherwise known as Ollie and Emma, at Witney Congregational Church. Quite a unique wedding reflecting the individuality of the bride and groom! Colourful, bubbleful, loveful and fun!
The hand-made bunting decorations, the crocheted bolero (made by the groom), the guest-decorated cupcakes that adorned the wedding cake, topped by a multi-coloured cake, and even the trainers the bride and groom wore were colour co-ordinated with autumnal hues.
We pray for their future happiness as they start married life together.
Sunday 6 November. We visited Witney Congregational Church to share worship with them. It was a lovely service crowned by an inspiring message from the Pastor, Rev Dr Jason Boyd. Not only did Job come to life, but it was skilfully linked to personal loss and pastoral care of those who are asking "Why?".
And so another chapter in the Diary of a President comes to an end. Christmas is approaching, the frosts are here and churches are starting to prepare for the festive season. Every blessing for this special time