Tuesday, 31 May 2011

why did I say yes?

My preaching engagements at our chapel are booked for the year in the previous September. Last year I offered to take the services on the 1st, 3rd and 5th Sundays in the month but it took me a while to realise that a fifth Sunday is followed by a 1st, which didn't give me much time to enjoy being retired, walking the hills or sewing.
So this year I cut it down to the 1st and 3rd Sundays but then felt guilty about being away at Assembly so opted to take the 5th Sunday in May.
So yesterday I felt unable to go to another Chapel's coffee morning with plant and cake sale as I wanted to make a start on next Sunday's service. 
This afternoon we have our monthly 'Village Women' which I now find I will have to miss as I have to go to Newport and tonight we have our regular Book Club and I offered to host - so I have had to go shopping for real milk and posh biscuits and clean downstairs!
Tomorrow I hope to get the bulk of my sermon done as on Thursday I go to Croydon to meet my daughter to fit her wedding dress and then on to Spurgeon's ready for Friday's monthly course on Continuing Development in Ministry.
As it is the annual College Conference the following Thursday, I shall delay my regular visit to the Grandboys this week and drive back to Wales on Friday afternoon - a bad time but hopefully a large number of folk will still be on leave for the half-tern holiday.
Gosh, it takes years to learn to say "NO"!

Saturday, 28 May 2011

39 years ago

he was late! by then 11days late and still he wouldn't budge!
So he will be celebrating his last birthday in his thirties tomorrow. Apparently while I was left in hospital with the little ginger haired man, friends were celebrating with brandy at 7am!
Unfortunately due to preaching engagements being booked last September I won't be at the barbecue to join in the celebrations but I'll make sure I'm free next year!
So from South Wales I shall toast the rather taller ginger haired man with a glass of brandy.
Mark and his lovely Katie on their wedding day Dec 09; are now with bump! Congratulations!
Happy Birthday Mark

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

prayer for healing

Since being called to be the minister of our lovely chapel in beautiful surroundings, I have been trying to discern why I have been brought here and what we can offer to others around us, especially as the usual things such as coffee mornings, mother and toddler groups, youth club etc. are all going on at the village hall.
But one thought kept coming into my head and with the help of the pastoral minister at a church over the border, it was decided that we should have a healing service. Ironically it was a bug going the rounds that prevented me from writing about the forthcoming event last week!
My first experience of prayer for healing was at one of the first Alpha courses at Holy Trinity Brompton in the late eighties and I took my first healing service with a fellow student while still at college, then gained more experience at the healing services at the Baptist Assembly.
The last few weeks have been busy with the Assembly and my monthly visit to college for the course in 'Continuing Development in Ministry' including visits to my kiddies and grandboys. But my friend who accompanied me to Assembly agreed to help me with the morning service where we gave them a taste of what we had experienced at Assembly, including Bible readings and hymns and songs sung, along with photographs taken from the Assembly website. This made it a little easier to prepare for the healing service in the afternoon.

I have a huge aversion to the healing services I have seen from America, re-inforced by Darren Brown's recent TV programme.
Ours was to be a very quiet service of prayer for healing. Although we have a radio mike, loudspeakers and a loop system that is our usual extent of technology but I was able to link up my ipod into the system to have continuous soft quiet music playing while we were praying for others.
We are fortunate to be part of a Baptist Rural Church Cluster and folk came from the surrounding chapels as well as from the Anglican Church.
Before the service we thought it might be something that we would run twice a year but the response was so encouraging not only from those who came but also from others who were not able to attend this time, that we are planning our next in three months time!

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

it's a small world

I had an extended stay in Brighton this last weekend, I'm not usually there on a Sunday so decided to worship at one of the Baptist churches. I used my new BU handbook to discern which church to visit as I keep forgetting that many Baptist churches have web sites!
The secretary at one of the churches had an email address, so I contacted them to ask for times of the services. I got a very prompt reply, including an approximate finishing time with a welcome to stay for coffee afterwards.
My welcome was excellent; I was taken and introduced to the secretary, who then introduced me to the minister. The church was buzzing with folk of all ages.
I had only just sat down when a young lady sat behind me, said hello and introduced herself. In just a few minutes we had exchanged a lot of detail about ourselves and I asked if she had a card. As we swapped cards, the service started and I recognised her surname. In a pause between the prayers and singing I turned round and said "Is your Mum, Michelle?", "Yes" she said, "Lancaster?" I replied, she nodded!
This lovely lady has worked with one of my fellow batch at Spring Harvest as well as being the daughter of a delightful lady who I met when living north of Lancaster, with whom I also had two other connections as we were both members of the 'Arts Centre Group' and 'Men Women and God'.
The service was excellent, with drama, a clip from 'you tube', discussions with those around us and good biblical teaching. I look forward to another Sunday in Brighton!

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Lord of Sea and Sky

Monday morning at the Assembly was the equivalent of double maths in school and Hebrew lectures at college. After the highs of the weekend, we were faced with the dodging of tax by the multi-national companies; difficult to understand even though it was put over so well!
During the final session of praise and worship, I stopped singing and let the music and voices wash over me which reminded me of when I was first called to the ministry and would go to Holy Trinity, Brompton on Sunday evenings. As I wrestled with my call, there were times when I just stood and prayed, enjoying the worship of others.
This is what happened physically yesterday morning, while spiritually God was taking me back to the beginning, then to the here and now, putting a closure on the struggle I have had over the years. God was showing me that this is the end of the struggle. I am where he wants me to be. 
A few weeks after my calling in 1989, I went to Greenbelt where I sang 'I the Lord of Sea and Sky' for the very first time. And as if the band knew the very special place that hymn has in my heart, they started playing but I couldn't sing! the tears were welling up.
It was as if God was tying up all the loose ends and then making a huge bow! 

All this time my friend and I were sitting behind the small group from my calling church, another God-incidence that they would also head for the far side of the auditorium, not even seeing that we were already sitting in the row behind. We were able to pray for each other and as Assembly closed we swapped email addresses and talked about arranging a date for me to go back to their church one Sunday next year. We made the most of each other's company in the few remaining minutes before hugging and saying our fond farewells. 

Monday, 2 May 2011

Lord of the Dance

Once again I’m writing this in my room as I try to settle before putting my head on the pillow and will post it in the morning.

In some ways I feel quite numb - its over - the culmination of twenty three years and over a year since my preaching skills were recognised but too late for last year’s assembly.
As I received my handshake, I was quite oblivious to any cheering and then I made a beeline for my friend, with her family, who had come for the evening as I knew they would be making a quick getaway.
My only complaint of the evening was that the music was so loud that I could not hear the prayers that were being said for me - please quieten the music!
Although I was stuck in the middle of the row, friends clambered over seats to reach me while the very special lady who had come for the first time because someone else was not able to come, managed to squeeze along the row and was suddenly beside me - we were both trying to fight the tears while hugging each other, amazed at the way God works it all out!

And as the praying finished we sang again, and for the first time in many, many years we sang ‘Lord of the Dance’. If I hadn’t been stuck in the middle of the row, I would have kicked off my shoes and danced; as it was I jiggled about a bit! Such an apt hymn for me with my background in dance, hence the title of my blog.
It was a wonderful evening where I felt God’s hand holding me with the reassurance that I am in the right place where He wants me to be, while being surrounded by such good friends - old and new.

Sunday, 1 May 2011

and it gets better

Saturday at Assembly has been a day full of meeting friends from my past, people who I never expected to see at Assembly.  One lady looked familiar across a couple of tables and I could see that she was looking at me, vaguely recognising me but unable to place the face. And then I clicked, I had met her when looking after a church in the Lake District during the summer holidays when I was a student. When the realisation dawned we greeted each other with huge hugs.  
And then there were more friends from my first calling church who I knew from the days when our children were little but are now in their thirties, married with children of their own.  They told me of more folk who were here who I had not seen for nearly twenty years. It has to be noted that one can be at Assembly and never meet friends who you know are also at Assembly. 
So knowing that they were here was special and then as I left the main area in the evening I saw them. More hugs!
For one lady, this is her very first Assembly but her presence is very special to me as she supported me through college. They wondered if they might see me but had no idea that I would be getting my hand shake tomorrow evening.

And there is more... as I made my way through the crowds to go to bed, sitting chatting was one of my referees, an incredibly busy lady who started her high profile ministry as Assistant Minister at the church where I spent twenty years as a pastoral group leader, youth leader, Girl’s Brigade Officer and deacon. I had heard rumours that she had been seen at Assembly so to have the chance of a quick chat before she sped off again was very precious.

I came here knowing that my friend from chapel would be supporting me and that a dear friend is coming across the country just for the evening while many friends would be praying for me and thinking of me from their homes.  But now I know that there will be many friends at the service tomorrow who have been with me on some part of my journey over the last twenty three years.