In 2004 the Conference of the British Methodist Church decided to appoint a ‘Music Resource Group’ (MRG) to look at publishing a supplement for Hymns and Psalms. By 2007 the MRG / Conference and Methodist Publishing House decided that a supplement was not practical and that a completely new resource should be published with a rolling update resource online. Historically the Methodist Church in Ireland has been invited by the British Church to send a representative to join the particular group planning for such worship resources, not that the Methodist Church in Ireland will necessarily adopt the resource, that is up to the Conference to decide. The invitation came following the British Conference of 2008 and I was appointed by the Irish Faith and Order Committee in the Autumn of 2008. During my Sabbatical I have begun to attend the MRG meetings. This has been a real privilege, not to mention a real eye opener! The group are pretty far through their work, but there is lots of work and numerous issues/hurdles still to be overcome. It has been great to meet a group of people who, though, they may have different perspectives are 100% committed to producing the best possible resource for the worshipping church. I suppose the big challenge is the amount of ‘flak’ that seems to fly round in all directions whenever you open up a debate on the issue of worship and music…. after all everyone has their favourite, hymns, psalms and spiritual songs. The MRG in its wisdom had decided to publish a list of songs for the resource and ask for feedback and has received numerous responses, some positive, others negative. The focus now is on ‘finishing the job’ and no doubt when we get there many may not be happy… but hey.. that’s church. We are trying to produce a practical, publishable, usable resource, which reflects Methodist doctrine and the best of modern hymns and contemporary songs that are already in use in many of our churches. No easy task, prayer needed!
Spending a couple of days on the north coast during Easter Week, hastily organised by my darling wife. She landed in a very cost friendly apartment right behind Portstewart promenade – absolutely fantastic… if I wanted to buy it apparently it would cost me £350k!!! Anyway we have had lots of family fun, Hannah loves Barry’s and sandcastles! We have been to the Causeway again and play parks aplenty, not to mention 10 pin bowling at Waterworld. We decided to try the Ramore Wine Bar for tea last night, not realising the kind of rugby scrum we were getting into! Good job for us the Watson’s were near the head of the queue and they got a table that we were able to join them at… it was great to catch up, oh and fantastic food too. It has been good to get a couple of quiet days after the busyness of Holy Week. Having just started back after Sabbatical I felt a little like a ‘rabbit in headlights’!
Learning to ski was definitely one of the highlights of my three months. As outlined in a previous blog… the thrill of learning to do something completely new was fabulous. I promised my partner in crime that I would stick up some of this pics… so here goes:
One of my personal objectives during my Sabbatical was to reflect on my impending appointment as Methodist Chaplain to Queen’s University Belfast. I have been involved in various conversations since last September regarding future co-operation with the Anglican chaplaincy and there were a couple meetings in relation to this during these three months. However my sabbatical also gave me the opportunity to meet some chaplains from different universities in England from a number of different denominational backgrounds. I met up with the co-ordinator for Higher Chaplaincy in the Methodist Church in Britain and he put into context for me the kind of circumstances many Chaplains are working in today, in a multicultural and multi-faith environment. I attended a Churches Higher Education Liaison Group (CHELG) day conference in King’s College London with Pete Ward (of ‘Liquid Church’ fame) as the main speaker reflecting on Discipleship in a University context. It was a real privilege to hear Pete share his wisdom and I really enjoyed meeting the guys working in various settings across England. The issue that I found very challenging about the day centered on whether chaplains were in a position to share the name of Jesus directly with students. Many students are exploring spirituality, it’s high on the agenda, but there seemed to be a fair division of opinion on whether it was right to ‘name’ Jesus in relation to those spiritual experiences. To name Jesus might be seen as being in some way exclusive. Now, I want to be the kind of person who respects other people and am very willing to respect the fact that they might not share my particular views, and indeed to respect their spirituality… but Jesus called me to follow him, to serve him and to speak of him when ever I can and wherever I am.
I also had the opportunity to meet a couple of guys working as ‘student co-ordinator’s’ in large inner city churches. It was very interesting to compare what they were trying to do in terms of gathering students and student discipleship with the approach of some of the chaplains I met. Plenty of food for thought!
Ok, so it’s all over! Only seven years to go until the next one. March has been really busy, so I haven’t blogged, but I promise over the next couple of weeks, despite the crazy Easter schedule, to write a few blogs by way of reporting on my Sabbatical. Some of you will immediately see through this cos you know I have to write a report for the Methodist Church in Ireland’s Sabbatical committee, and in so doing I will receive the second half of my Sabbatical grant! I thought I may as well share my ‘report’ with others!
On the sheer entertainment front of my sabbatical I managed to find over 190 geocaches in my three months. (I know that’s sad). This included finds in Tenerife, Bulgaria, Moss side in Manchester and central London. I really enjoyed the walking and exploring some new places. I managed to make my brother in law and an old uni mate very excited about geocaching and have possibly caused my youth worker to become addicted as well.
The other really entertaining part of my sabbatical was learning how to ski. I wasn’t sure that I would enjoy the experience, but I really did, to the point of wondering why I had never done this before! I can’t wait to go back again!
I promise to put up some pics in the next few days, and I will be blogging on my experiences in preparing for Queen’s and with the Music Resources Group.
Of course, I also did a fair bit of reading, completely all the required reading for the Arrow course and a couple of other books in addition to those, and I got my Arrow assignments done.
Beyond these blogs, I intend to keep on going… but you never know!