11 September 2017
Nice update from Stonesfield today "Another event at Stonesfield has been good fun and a chance for new faces to come into the Church. The flower festival went really well and involved many other villagers. Some of those who came to our open day came again. We plan to have some sort of autumn fair in November, to be held here in the Church, showing the community we are here for all. Occasionally a couple of new people have come to Church, but our Worship and fellowship together, remains strong."
29 August 2017
03 August 2017
Heard from the fellowship at Faringdon that a follow on act of worship included discussion and plans to put some of the ideas into place. These centre around more engagement with those who already use the building and change the relationship more towards a shared place of being community rather than a place to rent rooms. Our buildings give us something valuable to share with our communities to do their way of building relationships with others so that the lives of everyone are enriched. In God, we find the most profound and meaningful relationship as we come home to be with the one who both made us and walks with us (and so often carries us). Building relationships with others is a good first start though in a world where people increasingly do community in a disconnected, virtual way. Being involved with people living real lives with all the ups and downs is where we learn about life and ourselves — the reason why soaps are so popular! Christians are called to walk alongside others in this journey and love and serve where there is need. They are also called to point towards God.
16 July 2017
Lovely opportunity to spend an extended time with the fellowship at Faringdon yesterday. We shared in worship, scene-setting and discussion. Such a lot of great ideas there to be gathered and acted upon! You can listen to the scene-setting and see the slides we used on the Faringdon page
07 July 2017
New opportunity for conversation about mission at Faringdon :-)
07 July 2017
At Stonesfield, we met last night to review the feedback from the Open Day. It was impressive that we had anyone turn up at all! Firstly, to find people who may think this could be relevant to them, secondly to make the time to come and thirdly to cross the threshold into the church and engage with strangers who are Christians — God works wonders! As for what next...we talked a lot about schemes that were suggested that already happen in some form or another in the village e.g. lunch club, preschool activities. Those ventures need a ready-made group of committed people; our problem is we need new people to come alongside and help be part of a solution with us. We tried in the Open Day to get ideas from people AND a real interest in making something happen. We got the former but not the latter. Using the life of Jesus — bound as it was to a place and time — as an example of how an organisation should like a church should be is not always done appropriately, but all the acts of creative love (conversations, engagement across boundaries and prejudice, action and healing) all happened on a one to one basis. Love incarnate set free in the world inevitably touching the lives of those he met (and who listened to him). It really is a struggle to think of how a church can act in unison in the same way and maybe God is telling us through this that because it is hard, it isn't what we need to be doing! The conversations we have with others and the way we react (hopefully with real love) may be a springboard to activities. It is possible that some of those activities may become formalised and owned by a small group of like-minded people who then enjoy a new way of being community e.g. a group who meet to knit and talk together, another who share a love of walking and yet another we want a place to do yoga. This is all being church — to facilitate things that people enjoy doing together based on the solid shared vision that all are love, all are accepted and that all can know this to be true for themselves (to paraphrase John Wesley's famous foundational statements). The key thing seems to be to create the opportunities for these conversations to happen. The events we may put on are examples of how this could happen but they need to be events focused on creating that environment where conversations can happen, and not being just times when people come, receive and then leave. Putting on events regularly so that people can join in as and when is important but unless we find someone who has a passion for running them and will do so relentlessly, this is always going to be a challenge. So we are back to the most fundamental point, people with warmed hearts proactively reaching out to others around them in love, really listening to them and being willing to respond to their needs in the moment and drawing on others in the fellowship for help and support; because one very special aspect of church life is that everyone (needs to be) there for everyone else.
20 June 2017
Really enjoyable day with the folk at Stonesfield on Saturday. Much cake and a good number of visitors who each brought ideas for how the space could be used to benefit the community. Next up — meet to review them and work up a priority list on Thursday 6 July
8 June 2017
Had a superb meeting at Stonesfield last evening. We talked about how the Open Day will run on Saturday 17 June from 10:00-16:00 — basically a warm welcome and lots of tea and cake! Great focus on serving, facilitating joy in the village, listening to what people have to say and to what God shows us as we talk to others. Sunday afternoon was a great example of where in the busyness of the conversation some people happened to be passing, looked in and stayed for a long time reuniting with old school mates! I think there is a clue there that there is an opportunity to be a space where people can meet and just be together. This is a special opportunity at Stonesfield where there is a long history between many of the people who live there.
4 June 2017
Just back from the Stonesfield leafleting — see the team here. Interesting conversations as we went around the village and passers by got invited in to share in the cake we were having! Meeting next on Wednesday to discuss how the open day will go. Now we need to trust God will speak to those who received the leaflet and some opportunities will come about to work with people and create new relationships.
21 May 2017
So yesterday we had the rather wonderful Jill Marsh come to an event we ran for the circuit and any adjoining circuits who wanted to attend. Jill ran three sessions that helped us think about how we communicate the Good News and how we need to be aware of the need for change. In many (not all but many) churches we are seeing numerical decline as fellowships get older and new members are not being found. This is mainly happening within the context of traditional Methodist worship held on a Sunday. The pattern, led by our quarterly preaching plans, is familiar and loved by many of us who already appreciate it. It is however demonstrably not bringing in new members. Jill shared a brilliant idea to make what we do on Sunday's when we gather as church more engaging, varied and attractive. Have a four-week cycle where only one of those Sundays is what we might think of as traditional worship (prayers, songs, readings and exposition). The others we could study together (the Bible, Church history, contemporary issues...), do something practical and useful for our community (litter pick up, painting, DIY) and finally something fun and communal (picnic, watch a film, go for a walk...). All of these (including regular worship) can have different threads to be as appealing as possible to as wide a range of people as possible — not everyone needs to do the same thing; but at multiple points in the Sunday activity, we all come together to talk, eat and share together. That's your preaching plan problem sorted! That's a weekly activity you can genuinely invite anyone to! That's more interesting and relevant and helpful than just sitting inside a building for an hour! Sound good? Do it!
12 May 2017
Conversations are happening about the ways we could be sharing our worship outside of the physical boundaries of our buildings or the time of our services. John Wesley famously said all the world was his parish; a way of expressing the fundamental understanding that the Good News of Jesus is for all and for ever. Using the Internet therefore as a means of being where people are, when they need us, is something I think he would approve of! For a while now I have been trying to capture and make available, something of the joy of worship each week in the hope that someone, somewhere and sometime my get something of the joy God gives to all who by whatever means, come into relationship with God.
10 May 2017
The team at Stonesfield have created their leaflet so this now just needs to be copied and distributed to the ~650 homes in the village. What an awesome example of self-giving love and service by the fellowship there. I am sure we will have a really inspiring time when we leaflet the village on Sunday 4 June startting at the chapel at 14:00. Come and be part of this exciting act of risk-taking based on selfless love.
04 May 2017
Really good meeting at Stonesfield re our plans to start conversations with the village about how to work together to use what God has entrusted to us — our building and our own warmed hearts for service. You can see the plan on the Stonesfield scheme page here. Next steps are to recruit voluteers from our circuit to help with the leafleting on Sunday 4 June @ 14:00 :-)
30 April 2017
Lots of interest and discussion after the worship this morning at Faringdon. Here we have a set of buildings that are well used by a wide variety of groups, so the question of what needs can we meet is (to some extent) already answered. However, there is a lot more to do to make those groups feel like they have a say in what goes on and to extend what is offered. For example, a group of older people who meet as a group for friendship and support could (it was suggested today) be encouraged to stay for a lunch. There is a lot of opportunity to build up the engagement with those who rent the spaces as well as to reach out to others with needs that are currently unknown — the problems of isolation and loneliness and spaces to be are no less acute in towns than in villages. It is hoped that a post worship lunch followed by a discussion about the future will be arranged soon — at the latest for when I am next planned there. There is technical talent in the fellowship to try out recording / broadcasting services and to help others in the circuit do the same. Conversations have started!
28 April 2017
A small group of really enthusiast members from Stonesfield met last night and ... we have a new scheme to reach out to the entire village with an invitation to start conversations about how to exploit the underused resources the chapel and its people offer 😊 We are meeting Thursday 4 May to finalise the copy for a leaflet to invite everyone to come to an open day in mid-June. We will serve free refreshments and cake (lots of cake) in a drop-in session where we will chat about possibilities and ideas for working together to serve the community. After this we'll see what happens! There was a strong feeling that we need to do something proactive to ensure that the building remains available to the village and that we need to be talking to people to find out how we can help them and work with them to positively contribute to village life; all the while being upfront about what brings us together as a Christian fellowship that shows love and acceptance to all and has Good News to share.
25 April 2017
Heard from our Newland fellowship of an initiative to run afternoon coffee/drop-in sessions featuring cake, games (chess, scrabble and word-searches) and knitting in the chapel. This outreach is aimed at people who are around in the day and could be lonely; primarily the retired and parents with small children. To publicise the project, they have produced tailored hand drawn leaflets, delivered at the time of the sessions so as to reach those who could benefit while they are in. This is a great example of selfless love that we can all support in prayer. All glory be to God for inspiring the fellowship into action to serve. If God is in it, then the sessions should become self-running and not continue to primarily need those who set them up. Need finds its own way and all that.
23 April 2017
Spoke to a man from the Salvation Army who was visiting the fellowship at Carterton who told me of the large numbers of people of all ages who come to worship with them in central Birmingham. He said, "it's nothing we are doing but it's a result of us doing what God wants us to do." That seems to me to be the key point — we need to be listening through the conversations we must have with our communities to what God wants us to be doing. I'm going to get a chance to try that out at Stonesfield this Thursday night as they meet to discuss ways of generating funds to support their commitments — I'd like to extend that to try and find ways of working with the community rather than have to shoulder the burden of supporting a community asset alone. Let's share our concerns and opportunities with the people around us and listen to what God is saying we need to be doing.
20 April 2017
I invited a fellow preacher to have a conversation with me about the idea and tonight we met up. We are both naturally the types of people who want to get on with doing something, to create a plan that we are sure others will want to be part of and then to execute it regardless of experiences along the way. So it was a struggle to stay away from creating schemes...but we managed it! We agreed to have conversations with the fellowships we worship with and exchange any ideas and thoughts. We agreed to let the idea take root and in our conversations with God really try and listen to what God may be saying to us. We are going to think about who else we can involve in our thinking and praying. It is good to share rather than try and do things alone or in our own strength. This will only ever be of value if we let God control our actions.
16 April 2017
Had a good conversation with our fellowship at Stonesfield about the future where there is genuine concern about the future given that a number of older members have recently died and there are some money issues that look hard to face. The members really love to meet for worship and fellowship but there are issues to face e.g. the regular organist is finding the long travel to the chapel a pressure and sometimes this means changes to how music is provided. Coming away I had a real feeling that the fellowship needed to be helped to reach out to the village they are in and ask them how they could serve and work together to provide the things the village needs. Loneliness and isolation are big factors in rural communities as are ad-hoc needs to volunteering and practical help. Could a leaflet be put through every door inviting people to come for tea and cake one Saturday morning so conversations could be had?