February 4th had me conducting the funeral of a friend in a local Anglican church. John had died at the age of just 53, but lived a remarkable life that outshone his years: When he was born in 1962, weighing just 3 pounds, he had cerebral palsy and the medics did not expect him to survive more than a few hours, or maybe, a few days. He was a sickly baby and his parents were told that, even if he did live longer, he would be severely impaired. It seems however that no one told John! Despite various health conditions he enjoyed life to the full… playing football, enjoying holidays, training at Bible College and pinning down a job in a bank! But there was also another side to John – he was a committed Christian and loved Jesus dearly, sharing a heart for people too. By offering a listening ear and an open house, he touched the lives of more folk than we knew – the funeral was attended by over one hundred people when the family were only expecting some thirty five!
I include something of John’s story here because my life (and those of many others) is all the richer for having known him. I thank God that he shone brightly for his Lord and is now with Him in Glory. I thank God that, even though things seemed hopeless at John’s birth, the Lord had a plan for him, and, it reminds us that He has a plan for you and for me too! Jeremiah 29:11 says "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future”. But verse 13 reminds us that we must seek Him with "all our heart”!
A busy weekend followed with Admin and Finance meetings at the Resource Centre on Friday 5th February and Connexional Committee, hosted by our Nelson church on Saturday 6th. Connexional Committee went well and there was a particularly good presentation by Marilyn Riding on behalf of the Church Support Group (Home Missions as was). Thank you to all who pray for this meeting…there is a clear sense of growing unity in His Holy Spirit as well as gentle guidance as the Lord Jesus seeks to renew us in His love. Please make prayer for our Connexion a priority – That difficult issues will be resolved and that His healing, unity and LOVE will be poured out and shared in our midst. May God’s will be done and His Kingdom come!
On Saturday 13th February it was a joy to be able to attend the Coffee Morning at Friars Green – an event that my duties often take me away from. One of our regulars, Minnie, had kindly knitted about two dozen little ducks, stuffed with chocolate cream eggs, to help raise funds and a smile! Thank you Minnie! Most were gone before the morning was out!
On the morning of Sunday 14th I was preaching at Atherton with friends old and new. It was good to share light refreshments afterwards and to catch up with Dave Hughes and the work of the local foodbank . In the evening I was taking Coffee Praise at Friars Green.
Saturday 20th saw the Friars Green AGM as we reviewed the work of the last year and looked to the future. God is good, and although the fellowship is small, God’s love is strong and the membership agreed, with great joy, to accept three new members – A membership service will be arranged in due course. Sunday 21st had me dazzled under the new lights at our Stockton Heath church – Energy saving LED stage lighting, paid for out of the £4000 from the Connexion. The service went well and it is always a joy to be back in a church which I served for many years.
The evening was spent ministering at our Kent Street Community Church.
During the week that followed an asbestos clean-up team descended upon the cellar at Friars Green and scrubbed the walls, floors and ceilings removing all traces of deadly asbestos dust with specialist vacuum equipment… Three days’ work and £7000 later, filter tests were subsequently carried out by an independent surveyor and the all clear was given! Thank you to the Connexion for the timely £4000 – it went a long way toward this vital work.
The last weekend of the month, Friday 26th – Sunday 28th was spent with the Students at our I.M. Education Scheme’s residential weekend. The venue was the Wilson Carlisle Centre in Sheffield and the Rev. Cannon David Gibb led the sessions, taking us through the whole book of Revelation! David made a difficult subject accessible and majored on the fact that, despite outward appearances, Jesus is in control, God IS on the throne! Attendees were a mix of students, recently qualified ministers, and some of those who oversee the course. Of equal value to the teaching was the informal fellowship over meals and the obligatory late night walk!