Friday, February 02, 2007

Strangely Warmed

In this world I walk alone with no place To Call My Home But there’s one who holds my hand The rugged road, Through barren land. The way is dark, The road is steep. But he’s become My eyes to see. The strength to climb, My griefs to bear The saviour lives Inside me there. In your love I find release. A haven from, my unbelief. Take my life and let me be, a living prayer, my god to thee. In these trials of life I’ve found Another voice inside my mind. He comforts me, and bids me live inside the love the Father gives. In your love I find release, a have from my unbelief. Take my life and let me be, a living prayer, my god to thee. Take my life and let me be, a living prayer, my god to thee.
John Wesley wrote, famously, of being strangely warmed after a meeting in Aldersgate. This, for him, was the point (literal) of conversion which changed his life forever. This moment of realisation of the message contained within the bible is indeed a challenging one. But one of the lasting impacts of this has been the very touchy feeley nature of Methodism. I'll come clean. I am a rather withdrawn yet emotional person who enjoys exploring the touchy feely side of things. Touchy feely of how others feel but also in terms of a very visual hymnal that evokes many powerful and stirring thoughts and images that stay with me (not all pleasant or enjoyable!). One of the most profound moments of this side (of Methodism) is the annual Covenant Prayer. A week or so ago the Alison Krauss (amazing bluegrass/folk singer) song "A Living Prayer" was first played to me and it has stayed with me ever since. There is something so incredibly touching and personal about it. It is an incredibly lonely song, it brings to mind images of isolation and sadness yet within all that is contained a message of joy and excitement. This concept of this god being with us throughout our brigether and darker times and , that it is through all these our lives our transformed and we should become a living prayer (outpouring of Gods love). A challenge to us all in a most challenging time. Faced with local, national and international disasters that appear shaped by human hand it is all to easy to throw back your head and if not wail in dispire just quietly give up hope for the future. Yet by allowing ourselves to step back and become immersed in this god stuff, this Jesus dude, who walked and talked about peace, justice and love for all we can all begin to take a new approach for the world. This approach starts outside of ourselves as it comes with a caveat of looking out for others as you would treat yourself and once you start doing that then your entire interaction with the world is transformed, for the better. Yet it also does have shades of dark and gloom. Why do we pray? If we doubt fully what prayer does and is then how can we become a living prayer? At first I would be tempted to answer with a waggle of the eyebrows (in a homage to Archbishop Williams) and just say "the eternal mystery of faith" but it is something deeper than that. I find it a feeling that I can't name or put my hand on but that is just there. So, some pause for thought this w/end. Take Care Y'All John

Stating the Obvious

In other news... The Pope is Catholic I just hope that this signals the end to the "debate" about wether humans are having and abnormal affect upon the environment. What we all need to realise is that we are. Every hour we pump out carbon or exploit natural resources we are furthering the humans impact upon the environment. Instead of peacemeal efforts like Carbon Offsetting we need to further. We should examine what we do and why. Do we really need that plane journey? Do we really need such powerful lightbulbs? Do we really need to leave the TV on standby? Do we really need to make that car journey? Therefore once we start asking such fundemental questions we can truly begin to lessen our impact. Either that or return to your student days and put everything on a meter - that soon puts everything into perspective as you are on (in effect) pay as you go. More expensive, yes, more sustainable... well yes as you do use less of the resources! Take Care Y'All John

Team Focus

(Note: The reporting covers issues raised by myself and others only as a way of recording what went on, all decisions are supported by me (cause democratic mechanisms have said so! Team Focus is the document which sets out the new structure for the central Methodist Church support (Connexional Team). It is a document that outlines how 60posts will be lost taking a staff of 140 down to 80 and this interlinks with an overall saving of 30% required on the connexional level budget. This is important because it presents the shape of where the church nationally feels its presence and calling to be, what it thinks needs to be done on a national level. Some readers may have come across the article in the Methodist Recorder which outlined cuts in MAYC and this is true. The team would, if current plans are passed, be decimated in its current form. This presents a challenge as to what the new shape for youth work needs to be. Has the reshaping proposed gone too far or not far enough? Difficult questions which wont be tackled now, because that area of work is to report back in March so you'll get an explanation then! The major changes are the change to an advocacy based church. Whilst the current setup enables the serving of many within the church, the Team Focus paper argues that it doesn't engage with those outside the church enough and so through a focus on advocacy of the Christian Message views that as the new calling of the central team. This concept is an exciting one, yet I am a campaigner. I get excited by statements which force us to connect with the world. This is undoubtedly exciting - what church exists purely to serve it'self? Well it is odd though within the paper to look at the proposed structure which sees alot of staff dedicated to supporting the circuits and districts in their work, but not doing work on a connexional level. Two areas that were of concern to the council were the changes to the World Church and how the whole concept fits into Our Calling (the statement outlining what the Methodist Church exists to do)! The World Church, in its current setup ( area desks (geographical areas) that concern themselves with that area and do many jobs to do with it) is to be done away with. Instead there are to be two International Mission workers and then a diplomacy expert as well. This is to enable a more participatory office that echos the realisation that we are not able to send missionaries out to convert savages elsewhere, instead we are part of a global church. This change has seen a massive downsizing of the department and will present many challenges and for some, much heartbreak. This is troubling but also exciting! The excitement comes from the concept of forcing the entire Methodist People UK (230,000 odd) to grapple with the change in opinion outlined above. It enables us to really be a good and honest partner in World Methodist relations and impart our experience whilst appearing much more open to comments, suggestions and help from elsewhere. The entire World Church proposals are outlined here;
World Church Office [32] This area of work was examined by Project 6 and the Project Management Group developed the paper “Partnerships: Purpose and Practice” which explores what it means for the Church to be in partnership with other Churches around the world. From this paper flow the recommendations of the PMG that were then considered by a Filter Panel, and the JSG has used all of this material in developing this part of the proposal. [33] Further work is still to be done in reviewing issues such as mission partners, scholarships and Experience Exchange. [34] Some of the other functions currently undertaken within the World Church office can be achieved by utilising skills that will be held elsewhere in the reconfigured Team. For example, there will be very clear links around the Christian Communication and Advocacy Cluster through the International Mission Relationships Co-ordinator. Issues to do with recruitment and vocational exploration of mission partners, or formational experience of presbyters and deacons, will be part of the responsibility ofthe Learning and Ministries Cluster. [35] There will also be significant changes in the way in which the maintaining of relationships with partners is shared throughout the Connexion, and in the nature of regular contact and visits to and from partner churches. This will be within the area of responsibility of the smaller International Mission Relationships unit. These proposals represent a major change in the nature of our relationship with partner churches to a style that we believe is more appropriate for 21st century. The JSG anticipate that the Connexional Team will be able to achieve this work with fewer, dedicated paid staff
This interlinked with a very interesting discussion on a massive alteration in Racial Justice work, notably a grappling with the question of how integrated the Churches oft repeated pronouncements against Rascism show a real engagement with the issue.
Racial Justice [21] The JSG agree with the Filter Panel that there is a British and worldwide problem about racism within and beyond the Church and this needs to be addressed through Christian education. The Connexion has a responsibility for this and so has the Connexional Team. [22] However, we are persuaded that there needs to be a change of direction in what we try to achieve through the reconfigured Team. Recent years has seen the roll out of a training facility which is still relevant but the efforts of the staff within the Team need to be refocused. [23] There are some parallels with other issues currently being explored through the time limited project about Equality and Diversity. Awareness of racial justice and all sorts of disabilities needs to become part of our usual way of working within the Team and in the wider Church. We therefore conclude that this area of work should in the first place be developed into a wider Project, time limited, that would help us discern the actions we need to take in order to embrace these crucial issues in our very culture. [24] This might mean that we will need to employ a different range of skills within the Team in the longer term to support this responsibility.
In the end, the general outline of proposals was accepted with a variety of caviats. We have just been emailed round a note of them. They are to "aid our reporting back" therefore I don't think I am breaking any confidentiality if I reproduce them beneath (I await a knock on the door from the Methodist Police!)
The Council adopted the following resolution : “The Council endorses the general direction of the proposals in this paper [MC/07/04] and encourages the Joint Secretaries’ Group to develop them in line with the discussions at the Council.” In those discussions the Council requested that further work to be done on specific matters in the light of particular points made. These were: • how the proposed structure could be seen to support the Church’s emphasis on and work in Mission and Evangelism • how the proposals are to be communicated to the Church at large • the need to demonstrate that the Team has sufficient capacity and resources to deliver the work allocated to it • the number and location of office bases for the reconfigured Team (and concern for staff and the possible loss of expertise if it is proposed that one office should close) • how the proposals enable the whole church to deliver on Our Calling and Priorities for the Methodist Church • how work on equalities and diversity will be delivered in the reconfigured Team • how the outcomes from Project 3 (on re-visioning work with children and young people) will be incorporated into the proposals In discussion of the proposals to develop work to support International Mission Relationships, the following questions were identified as needing to be addressed: • how will it be ensured that appropriate expertise and breadth of knowledge (currently represented by the Area Secretaries in the World Church Office) will not be lost • whether Mission Partner schemes will continue, and, if so, will be adequately supported • how it will be possible to identify the links between the people who raise money and the people where it is being sent • how we express our theological understanding of what it means to be part of a world church in the twenty-first century • how we give and receive support in our relationships with Methodist churches around the world – linking the finance rich with the faith rich • how the International Mission Relationships work will impinge on other areas of work, eg material for children • how the work currently done by the World Church Office will be co-ordinated if parts of it are dealt with by different clusters in the reconfigured Team • whether the name ‘World Church’ needs to be changed, and how it will be carefully explained if it is
Finally, throughout all of this the issue of leadership was continuously appearing. What form of leadership do the people called Methodist wish. The current setup of Coordinating Secretaries and General Secretary is viewed to have failed and new ideas are being floated. As part of this the Council forced a discussion group to be established to bring proposals to the Council in March. I advocated, and successfully got, a young persons place reserved on this committee and so look forward to seeing who The Methodist Youth Executive suggest sits on it. Hopefully this is the beginning of the Methodist church taking Youth Participation very seriously, and it also looks at how youth participation flows to all levels and not just centrally (where it has achieved rather alot since Charter 95). Take Care Y'All John [edited: The piece in the final release is, I belive, an incorrect reflection of what the Council said about Project 3 (Childrens & Youth Work) therefore please ignore that one for now!]

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Bishops, Partnerships, Pensions

(Note: i)This post is the first of two reports from the Methodist Council meeting (30-31st Jan) of January 2007. The reporting covers issues raised by myself and others only as a way of recording what went on, all decisions are supported by me (cause democratic mechanisms have said so!. ii) Rather than do chronological posts, as per before, I instead wish to have post dedicated to Team Focus and another to the other stuff we looked at iii) If you click on the name of the item the relevant paper, as presented to Council, will be automatically downloaded I start with The Use of Methodist Buildings by People of Other Faiths . This item was commissioned by the Council in Oct 2005 and is to explore the ways in which people of other faiths currently use Methodist Buildings and wh legal provision is for such a situation. The paper came back and was a middle ground approach saying (importantly) that we, as a church must live with this as an issue on which we accept being a theologically diverse church. That said, the current legal provisions of what a Methodist Church can have happen on its premises (as defined in the Deed of Union). I was frustrated by this paper not going far enough (and raised this concern), yet, in reality I have to accept that many people will not want other faiths worshipping in public (eg public act of worship) rather than private (eg a personal prayer) on Methodist Premises. Yet I would suggest you read the report as a way of seeing a concept of "radical hospitality" and how being open to other faiths using our buildings is as much part of our mission as just being a good neighbour! OutcomeThis paper will go to Methodist Conference 2007 for debate and guidance on where to go now, but there is a wish to consult for a year on how the whole Methodist people view this issue. Lets hope the Methodist people are as excited as I am cause this is something worth talking about! *Note this nicely fits into the upcoming month of prayer for Interfaith Relations which was proposed by Methodist Youth Conference 2005* Report Two Report of "What Sort of Bishops" responses Youth Conference 2005 saw da yoof memorably kick da Bishops in da Ballot by rejecting all the forms of bishop proposed within the "What Sort of Bishops" report. This was one part of a connexional wide consultation which sought answers to what form of Bishops the Methodist People would wish to see within their setup. The resounding response was "we want no bishops" though the authors of the report felt that not all group and participants had grappled fully with the questions asked instead using it as a time to vent against the concept of Bishops. What followed was an interesting discussion which covered how people on the ground saw the paper, could they engage with it at all and also how to "face" the Church of England now on the issue of women bishops (eg we want women bishops but we don't want bishops in our own structure). Outcome : A report will go to Methodist Conference 2007, but need to wait until after the March Council to give fuller details than that. This is partly because if the report authors felt that the questions asked wern't answered then if they re-consult it may appear like a move for Bishops when it really wouldn't be! There were many other items discussed and I'll pop up a sentance or two about each. These were the most interesting, non Connexional Team restructing, ones that deserved special mention. Take Care Y'All John

Thine Ears Have Heard the Glory

Earlier this week saw an exciting point of the Celtic Connections Festival in Glasgow. It is an all round marvelous event (ending this coming Sunday) celebrating the rich folk heritage within Scotland and exploring where the uk folk scene (although it can't really be lumped together in one homogeneous blob) is going next. One of the most important events of the week is, besides Kate Rusby in multiple concerts, the Young Traditional Musician of the Year award. Being stuck in London (unlike some lucky wibbloggers) I was relegated to listening on the radio but suggest you all tune in for an hour or so of excitement, tension and overall sound music! If folky music isn't quiet your thing, well another tune that has caught my ear has these funky lyrics.
i found something dying; it was my light it had resigned itself to night so i threw it out a fishing line and said catch your will and then catch mine
Emerging band "The Guillimots" (onto the national scene anyway) have a quality track out at the moment entitled Annie Lets Not Wait. What I enjoy about it are the lyrics which are about the internal searching, questioning, doubting.. rather than the Annie Lets Not Wait chorus. Anyway, click here for their MySpace page and take a listen yourself. Take Care Y'ALl John