Saturday, September 17, 2011

on way every committee and church should watch #DoctorWho Season 6 - The Girl Who Waited

We've all been there. Midway through a meeting a bold and brave new suggestion is put forward on the table, an eary silence drops over the room and no-one quiet knows what to do. Some people are sat there thinking 'we've done this all before, I'm not doing that again'. Others think 'what a brilliant idea, let's bash through and get on with it'. Some may think 'what's next on the agenda' and a final few... well they just keep themselves to themselves so long as everyone 'feels alright'. Last weeks Doctor Who was a highlight of the series. It contained it all, an absent Doctor, peril for the humans, non-thinking robots acting out an algorithm (this time killing through kindness) and difficult choices to be made to reach a conclusion. The twist, this week, being Amy Pond gets two versions - one the one we know and met at the beginning of the episode, the other 36 years older (looking the same!)more bitter, twisted and independent. Rory got to meet a future version of his wife, Amy got to see what happened if she ever just 'went it alone'. Why does this link into committees and religious groups? Because the pivot point within this tale ultimately focussed on risk taking - if we could see into the future would we jettison all of today to get there? Would we ignore things we have yet to learn or do we, instead, kill off the future but appreciate and travel with the present? Not following? Well how many times have you heard people predict the future, based on a paper they are responding to? All to often church meetings get stuck on points and never look at the ability of anything to transform individuals and deepen relationships. The problem being, if we ignore that then people end up being part of a community in which they are forgotten, and forget how to be part of a group. Every church committee should sit down and watch the Girl who waited because, ultimately, it is not about the power of group think, but it is a good reminder about the strength of being part of a group and a lesson to us all never to leave anyone out waiting....because after 30odd years they are unlikely to come back....

TELL.SHOW.BE. - English from Tell.Show.Be on Vimeo.

Angela Shier-Jones - Funeral and Memorial Service

The following tweet has appeared

Funeral for @revdrange at 2.15 on 4th Oct at Methodist church, New Malden. Memorial service at Wesley's Chapel on Sat 3 Dec.
17/09/2011 19:10 "

See you in London on 3rd December I think.....

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Training the Trainers

What would you consider a key part of the Methodist Church is? It's style of worship maybe, it's approach to social mission or even the democratic nature of it's structure. All of these would be technically correct, yet also wildly wrong.

A great strength of the church is the positive place it gives to lay people, or in non-church speak- volunteers. From leading worship at chapel to running fringe events at national conferences, the church couldn't exist without the thousands of human hours donated/given to the church.

Interactive learning about workshop priorities
Today I spent a wonderful afternoon with people from the Children & Youth Team. As part of my day job I'll be attending the annual youth assembly and leading some workshop style sessions. However this afternoon wasn't a chance to be told why I'd been asked, or even a chance to find out about the practicalities (though, if asked, I know I'd have been given the answers). Today was a chance to be trained in basic learning, facilitation and feedback techniques.

What I realised through this was workshop leaders or keynote speakers or indeed anyone invited to take a role in an organisations event is rarely given the chance for training in basics and groundrules. This event though will be different, all will have been offered training to ensure the skills and gifts they bring can help the widest range of people deepen their faith and change their lives.

So, a challenge to me and everyone else. If you are running keynote events for a community - when do you create a space to ensure those offering their skills are all upto a high standard and share some basic understanding? Paid or voluntary, all can learn, share and explore before leading others on such a process. I've been challenged today in many ways, least of all to consider how I support those I ask to do tasks for me. When do you support or equip those you trust decisions to - a note in a minute to "do" something isn't enough if you don't build in space to ask questions, share knowledge and lay groundrules.

Thank you Children & Youth team. You continue to challenge the church through your positive example

In Memory of Angela Shier-Jones (Rest in Peace)

Angela Shire-Jones, pictured on her last blogpost
Churches have their characters, people who rise above mere 'hundle mentality, and really leave their mark. Today, it has been reported that the Methodist Church of Great Britain lost a fine blogger & tweeter, keen conference attender, world methodist engager and noted author, Rev Angela Shire Jones.

She described herself as

Methodist Minister, theological educator and author.
Sadly mad about Wesleyan theology and the doctrine of Christian Perfection - mainly because I am so far from being perfect.
Committed to any expression of Church, fresh or otherwise which will communicate the gospel in a way that engages and transforms a needy world. (taken from her google profile)
However what she misses in this modest profile are the many ways she has enriched the life of the Methodist Church. She was an enthusiast, pedant, poker and stirrer. She was never afraid to ask 'why' or even to challenge the perceived status quo to ask 'is that right'. Her passion and interest in an active church, a passion so sorely tested at many times, helped invoke in me an understanding that I wasn't the only one that saw conferring as not just beracratic, but a key way to develop and understand our own theology. If we weren't talking how could we then move onto doing?

However, don't think being a pedant for history and rules means being stuck in the past. A key part of her life has been to encourage youth work and to engage with the Fresh Expressions movement - both in practice and in writing.

One of the greatest gifts she leaves the church is a mirriad of publications that really help explore what the Methodist Church was/is all about. Amazon lists 15 book titles when you view her 'author profile' and that (I'm sure) doesn't represent the full run of all her writing. Her books covered a wide range of topics and always came back to a simple 'and what does that lead the church to do' question.

She was a firm advocate of Weslyan Theology, and knowing it as such, and was a helpful prompt to a church that has (at times) thought better of it's past, wishing to ignore it and build to the future.  Her time as editor of Epworth Press (Methodist Theological Quarterly) and commissioning editor of the publishing mark 'Epworth' were marked by challenging issues covering all manor of hot topics. While the ongoing future shape of Methodist publishing is unclear, I am sure her stewardship of both has shown the need for fine Methodist articles providing something of value and worth to the wider world.

Angie in more relaxed mode, as featured on her own website
However, it was through her coming to terms with cancer that we all came to find and appreciate a new side to Angela. For she picked up her electronic pen and started to pen the most moving of blogs called 'the kneeler'. In true Angela style its contents vented, raged, weeped, challenged and uplifted. Of course, we didn't always agree - but our disagreements led to fine discussion and a want to blog about differences. Ultimately,  her 'personal' letters to God were always a 'must read' and showed the real humanity behind someone living with one of modern medicines greatest challenges, cancer.

What I've written today will not do her full justice, I've only known one aspect of her. My thoughts are a gut reaction to some very sad news. We'll no doubt have the authorised obituary in the Meth Recorder and stories will appear around the world of lives she has touched. We didn't always see eye-to-eye on many different issues, however I deeply respected her viewpoint, her love of methodism and shared her wish to share a life-enhancing open for all gospel.  Methodism lost a preacher and an author today and I hope many churches give thanks for her life, think of her family as they grieve today and spare some prayers for Kingston Upon Thames circuit who were her final stations.

[EDIT - As memories of her pop up on the blogosphere I'll try and list them:]
P.S - It appears that Angela set up her own blog to cover only her story regarding cancer - I think the posts were double posted (to the-kneeler) but still - Suffering Grace