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Chair of the District Revd. Rachel Parkinson met some of the Circuit’s members at the Welcome Service for Revd. Chris Hardy at Bayston Hill in September.
Delivering the sermon Revd. Parkinson explored the commission of Jesus’ disciples, the sending out with the message that they are to do as he has done. Referencing Matthew 10 she considered Jesus laying down the terms and conditions of that commission and pointed out that “There is no promise of faith”, and that the disciples, though commissioned and named by Jesus, exist to us largely as names on a page.
Likening ministry to an enterprise, Revd. Parkinson suggested that in the enterprise of the Father and Son, the father had been running the show for several centuries but the performance on the shop floor was poor. “Somehow the instructions were sent down to the shop floor but they never really got the knack of eternity very well and so lots and lots of mistakes were made. So the Father brought the son along.” Through Jesus’ hands-on approach he demonstrated the line of business the family was in: Liberation, healing and joy giving, and the son was really good at it. People realised what they were supposed to have been doing all these years.
The son built a big team around him, selected and commissioned only twelve and as they were sent out to do the work he gave them terms and conditions and a summary of what they should not take: No money, no extra clothes… Jesus tells them to take nothing with them.
Revd. Parkinson stated that while Matthew 10 is set in a specific time and place, the scripture outlines the terms and conditions for all those who have followed since, all those who want to share the work, to carry on being the hands and feet, the eyes and ears and the heart. She noted that ministry, far from being about status, ego or fame, is entirely about being called and for those who are called there is no fortune. For Revd. Hardy, she said, as for all ministers sent to an unfamiliar place to work, this means leaving behind all the securities. “All those things which ground you in a community” will be missing for a while.
Jesus stressed to his followers how very dependent they would be on the people in the communities they were going to. Itineracy and moving on not only throws us into dependency on those we are going to but also on God, so we enter a time of hard spiritual growth.
However, Revd. Parkinson reminded, alongside the dependency is the commission to demonstrate the love of Christ to all people. To challenge in the face of disputes which divide, speak the truth in love and to be a little light of joy in those communities we serve
The Revd. Dr. Neil Richardson and Ludlow Chapel minister Revd. Kim Stilwell took part in a Sleep Out supporting a fight against funding cuts that may result in the closure of The Foyer, a crucial housing initiative for vulnerable young people, based in Ludlow. Ludlow Chapel facilities were opened overnight for those taking part and the Wesley’s Café team provided them with a cooked breakfast.
The Sleep Out, which saw twenty-five people sleep at the Buttercross and along the pavement of High Street, was organised by Peter Norman, who was on the board of South Shropshire Housing Association which, over fifteen years ago, bought the property and set up The Foyer. He said, ”To my mind it does a very good service in terms of getting young people (16–25 year olds ), who are at a fairly critical point in their lives and perhaps run into difficulties, into independent living through training, mentoring, advice and shelter essentially.”
The Foyer is currently under threat from both government changes in Housing Benefit regulations and cuts to Shropshire County Council support. According to Peter Norman, The Foyer, which currently provides accommodation and support for fifteen young people, faces a potential loss of approximately £100 000 from each of those sources. “This is essential to cover the extra staffing costs, the extra security costs, the extra training etc, over and above the accommodation that they get.”
Revd. Stilwell who got involved through Hands Together Ludlow commented on the local concern. “The danger that if it is closed and those people will be turned out on the streets with nowhere to go is a very worrying situation.” Earlier in the day, a stall set up at Ludlow market raised awareness of the issue with a petition which gathered 640 signatures. “If we get 1000 signatures on the petition to the County Council they have to debate the issue in full Council and they are due to make decisions on their budget for next year during September.” Peter Norman informed.
One of the directors at Shropshire Housing Group Ann Sutcliffe who slept out under the Buttercross arches praised the effort. “I want to say just how amazing it is to be here with all these people who live in Ludlow who care about it and I don’t think there’s many towns where the local people care so much about their young people that they are prepared to sleep out like this. It’s fantastic. It’s really moving.”
Mayor of Shrewsbury Ioan Jones, Local Councillor Alan Townsend and Shrewsbury Town Council’s Robert Handley were among the guests at a Dedication Service for the recently opened Hermitage Centre, at Belle Vue Chapel. The service follows a long period of refurbishments to the buildings made possible largely by a generous legacy from Kath Bate and grant funding of £10,000 from Veolia Environmental Trust, £3,000 from Shrewsbury Town Council, as well as Circuit funding and several fundraising initiatives led by Belle Vue members and friends, plus donations they have made.
Leading the service Revd. Silas Wood thanked all of the funders, the architects, builders, electricians and the myriad of people who have helped in so many ways towards completion of the project. His appeal to continue encouraging local community groups to fully utilise the premises and for those working and worshipping within the church to encourage each other, were echoed by District Chair Revd. Rachel Parkinson who gave the address. The newness, she said, would reinvigorate “that family of people here who love God and love each other as Jesus loves each one of you. That holy love of God that, people coming into this building will be able to sense, it will pervade the whole atmosphere.”
The drive to assess what funds were necessary then set about raising the amount, Revd. Wood said, started with a single church member, Mervyn Bradley taking on a sponsored swim. Special mention was also made of Martin Beardwell who rigorously completed grant applications, and Mike Hallworth who tirelessly oversaw and co-ordinated the project, keeping people informed of the progress. All at Belle Vue Chapel are pleased with the results; the expansion and transformation of parts of the building from its former state of disrepair, and the opportunities the building now provides for the local community to be welcomed, to a comfortable space, where they can share in God’s love.
HEAR REVD. RICHARD HALL ON BBC RADIO SHROPSHIRE
The Circuit’s Superintendent has been contributing to BBC Radio Shropshire’s Pause for Thought, a weekly Sunday morning item, for a while now.
Listen to one of his reflections from the series, “Sticks and Stones”.