Pilgrim Walks

Don't miss the next walk (see PW page for more info)

DofE Chaplain News

What is the Methodist Church?

re_methodist_logo_hires

I sometimes get asked what the Methodist Church is and so I’ve started writing something to help me with the answer – I’m hoping to remember it all. Anyway, here it is – perhaps you could help me by pointing out what I have omitted (this mainly concerns the UK Methodist church by the way).

The Methodist church is movement started by John and Charles Wesley in the 18th century to reform people’s lives by following the teachings of Jesus.

We are a very democratic church which is run by its members with the majority of services being taken by lay preachers.

Methodists played an important role in the abolition of slavery and the emancipation of women (we were the first church in the UK to ordain women, for instance).

Methodists were instrumental in the formation of the trades union movement.

Methodists have got deeply Involved in politics playing an important part in the formation of the Labour party – which according to Harold Wilson owes more to Methodism than Marx – and the Liberal Party and being active in the Conservative party.

After witnessing the disastrous effects of alcohol and gambling on family life in the 19th century Methodists supported the idea of complete abstinence in an attempt to help reform society – hence our reputation but now a matter of personal choice.

At the end of the 19th century in response to the number of homeless and vulnerable children Methodists started the National Children’s home which became one of the largest children’s charities in the UK and still continues its work as Action for Children.

In 1943, and prior to the welfare state, Methodists concerned about caring for the elderly started Methodist Homes for the Aged or MHA, which 70 years later is the largest charity provider of care for the elderly in the country.

Methodists have been deeply involved in caring for the elderly, education and health care. It was a Methodist who started the Salvation Army.

In the 20th century The Methodist Church was one of the biggest providers of youth work in the country through its MAYC youth clubs, Boy’s and Girl’s Brigades.

There are presently about 80 million Methodists worldwide and growing, and there is a Methodist church in nearly every country.

In the 21st century Methodists are pioneering new ways to express what being a Christian means.

We have always had a concern for personal and social holiness – the way we live. We believe that Jesus and his teaching is the way forward for the world and that God’s love is available to all.

Fresh Expressions of Church

715511_22964670Fresh Expressions work! I came across this bit of information the other day – it is a couple years old now but that doesn’t mean it is not worth looking at.

What is a Fresh Expression? It is essentially a new way of doing church. The church has finally woken up to the fact that the old way of doing church is putting a lot of people off coming and so we are trying to do new things – and it is working. There are all kinds of different groups growing up where people are being given the chance to explore and express faith in news ways. Messy Church is a Fresh Expression, for instance, where families gather and do crafts together to explore a Christian theme. I am leading short Pilgrimage walks where we get the chance to walk in a beautiful place, talk and express our faith in some way.

This doesn’t mean that old ways of being church are over but that we are discovering new ways of finding and expressing faith in a new world. For those of us who are doing these things it can be very exciting, as well as challenging.

If you don’t go to church perhaps you ought to find out what Fresh Expressions are happening near you – or if you have an idea for one let your friendly local Minister know and get involved.

God is not dead, Science has not destroyed faith (despite what nonsense the media/press peddles), it is perfectly logical and reasonable to believe in God (don’t judge belief on the nutters the media/press like to talk about). If God does exist (and I believe there are plenty of reasons to think that God does) then shouldn’t we try and find out about God? I think the best way we have available is through the life and teachings of Jesus – you may think different. If there is life after death – as Jesus told us – and your immortal soul depends on God in some way shouldn’t you take the trouble to find out?

Why does England football team always fail?

Are you fed up with hearing about why the England football team always fail? Well here is my addition but I think it may be a little different to most.

No doubt part of the problem lies in the tactics, and I have little doubt this played a part in the last disaster against Iceland. No doubt our football stars are getting too pampered and this is making them soft when we need them to be tough. Yet you could add that this is true for every footballer in every country these days, so it can only be part of the answer. I might also point out that we haven’t won any major competition for 50 years and this pampering has only more recently become a problem. I also want to put the blame on the FA, of course. They are one of the best funded organisations in the world and so have access to the best minds yet they fail. Are the FA pampering themselves too much – no doubt. We could blame the press – after all look at all the pressure that is put on players to succeed – but then again is it unrealistic of us to expect the best trained and best paid players to come up with the goods from time to time? I don’t think it is. This is the same press who will also treat them like royalty if they succeed of course – maybe they could remember that instead.

The truth is that I think it comes down to us all – we, as a nation, are failing.

We are glad when success does come to our national teams – usually through the ministrations of a foreign leader of course – but they don’t come often enough to claim any kind of lasting success.

But when I look at our nation I see a place where people are giving up on trying and getting involved. Every group I speak to has terrible trouble recruiting leaders or even helpers. Parents are happy to pass their children over but don’t want any responsibility in making their children’s pastimes succeed. They will stand on the side and cheer (or moan) but don’t want to ‘do’.

We should have seen it coming when the churches emptied. We had excuses of course – not relevant, boring, science, modern, post-modern, etc – but all of them bogus reasons really. The real truth is that we couldn’t be bothered.

Couldn’t be bothered.

Isn’t that what we see on the international football pitch and isn’t that what disturbs us as spectators – it looked like they just couldn’t be bothered. Could it be that we as a nation have become so not bothered that it has become our default position? We have become passionate about not being bothered. We laugh at comedians who make jokes about not being bothered because we know deep down that this is what we are, what we have become. We encourage our children to have ‘personality’ which usually translates to ‘not bothered’.

I doubt, of course, that the player on the pitch would realise that this was the problem. They are blind to their not bothered nature that they have grown up with.

So England, it is time to get bothered. It is time to get off our ever widening backsides and to start getting involved. Get yourselves back to church, start volunteering to help, be a scout leader or football coach and maybe in a few years when we have all started being bothered again we might actually win something!

I would write more but I can’t be bothered.

Lost DofE walkers found

I was really pleased to hear that the walkers lost in the Brecon Beacons had been found and were all well.

The hills and mountains can be very dangerous places and in this case, it seems, the groups did just the right thing. Stopping and getting themselves warm and sheltered from the bad weather and then waiting for rescue.

You can read more here …

image of brecon beacons

Brecon Beacons

photo credit: 245 seconds via photopin (license)

Why do I walk up hills?

7593837It is not unusual for me to question my own sanity when I am struggling up a hill on a cold and wet day. On those days when I could be sitting in a warm room, maybe watching an exciting, or at least interesting, film on my T.V. munching away on some fresh popcorn; instead I’m suffering up a hill. I am getting good exercise, of course, and I know somehow it is good for my soul but I cannot deny that I have willingly undertaken to suffer.

When the sun is shining and views are expansive it is easy to take another lung full of sweet fresh air and to wonder at the glory of the world all around me. On days like that it is easy to understand why I would go through the agony of climbing a steep hill, after all some views can only be seen by those who bother to leave the car and take a long walk. Yet, some days you can not see further than a few feet in front of you and the struggle is made even more intense by the need to carry more clothes on a cold day and wear thick waterproofs to keep out the rain. What would motivate someone to do that?

I once heard a mountaineer say in response to the question “why do you do it?” that “if you are asking that question then you will not be able to understand the answer.” I understand just what they meant. Any answer that I give to such a question will, by it’s nature, be very unsatisfying because the only way to truly answer the question is to take to the hills and walk.

I like words, I also like pictures and film but there are still some things in the universe that it is impossible to successfully describe. The feeling, for instance, of holding your new born child or watching a sunset next to the love of your life. Poets come close but only because they reawaken some deep memory in us that makes us feel again that moment we remember but have never been able to describe.

I can not successfully describe to you why I like to walk but it is my experience that if you take the trouble to try it, and maybe come with me on a walk one day, and maybe in the wet and windy weather as we just crest the top of the hill the penny will drop and somewhere deep inside you a light will come on and you will then be able to stand on the top of that hill buffeted by the wind and without having to say a thing you will know why I do it, and then like me you will be wondering when the next chance will come to do this all again.

Farewell to the EU?

339176_1500I guess by now you are probably fed up with thinking about the EU but at the risk of causing even more trouble here is another comment. I’m not going to say how I voted – though I suspect most people who know me would be able to work it out. However, we now have to deal with the aftermath of the referendum. Please bear with me while I begin with a few moans – to get them off my chest.

Moan 1: The politicians let us down

I think it was quite possibly the worst of times for British politics. In the first instance we had an internal party struggle that erupted into the country having to vote in a referendum that it was ill prepared for. I am disappointed that so many people seemed to vote in protest against the UK politicians – one way or another – when this was a referendum on our collective future. I’m appalled that so many lies were pushed out in an effort to persuade us – one way or the other – and now we are hearing that even those who peddled the lies knew they were lies but don’t seem bothered about it. I’m also upset that somehow people think it is perfectly acceptable to do anything to get the result they want. We saw the UK at its worst at a time when we needed it to be at its best.

On top of this just when we were shaken by the result and needed our politicians to step up and take a lead so we can gain a little confidence and encouragement they seemed to collapse into a heap of recriminations and quitting.

I am someone who has always defended politicians as good people trying to do a difficult job but sadly the leadership has been very bad indeed. It felt at times like a school playground squabble when we needed good leadership – shame on them all.

Moan 2: Those jumping on the political bandwagon

I once had great respect for Nicola Sturgeon but she lost that with her reaction to the vote. Though, it must be said that she is not the only one getting involved. With the whole of Europe shaken she chose the moment to force her own political agenda of getting Scotland out of the UK. When we needed some stability and proper democracy (when did it become democratic to say because I haven’t got my way I’m not going to play any more?) we instead got calls for division and instability. Democracy is surely about accepting that the majority decide and even if we don’t like that decision we have to accept it and live with it. Democracy is never about leaving because we don’t like the choice – that is not democracy it is childish behaviour.

Enough moaning, now what?

Moaning is not the answer  – we need strength and diplomacy

What we need now is to find a way to live with the decision. Very nearly half of this country did not get the result they wanted. This is very painful for many. But we have made the choice and barring some last minute attempts to change the result we will have to live with the consequences of what has happened. We cannot change the result but we can change our future. We need to put love and understanding at the heart of our next steps. We need to be strong and display what Britain is famous for and pick ourselves up from the rubble and show the world what we are now capable of doing. Whatever disasters come our way as a nation – whether we caused it or not – we need to roll up our sleeves and get on with the work. The time has come for us to work together. Who is with me?

Chris

P.S. Of course as we return to gold old fashioned British values I’m looking forward to people getting back to church again.

Hills can be tough at times

I had another busy few days last week with both Haygrove and Heathfield schools. This time both were DofE training. For the first time since I started doing this I had people crying in both groups. The Haygrove group were very new to walking – the first time out on the hills – and they were carrying full packs – a bit of a shock to anyones system. Climbing hills when you are not used to that kind of walking let alone carrying extra weight was very tough on some of them and they cried. I felt very sorry for them but we had to get around and I’m delighted to say they all finished the route despite the struggle. I admire their grit and determination despite the hardships they had to endure.

exmoor dunkery beacon

The Heathfield group had a tough day when I met them at the campsite in the evening. They seemed OK but their spirits were a little down. The next day walking with them, however, I discovered how tired they were and every hill was painful for them. I wondered at one point if we would ever get to the top of the first one but they battled on, despite the tears, and made it to the top. The second hill was not as steep and they managed it better, although they did complain a great deal.

One of the teachers very wisely observed that they were taking out their frustrations at the route on me because I was always the bearer of bad news as I had to keep telling them that there was more hill to climb and more distance to walk before the end of the day. We parted friends though and I hope I was forgiven for making them walk up the hills.

It made me think, once again, how tough hill walking can be. Going for a walk may sound like an easy enough pursuit but climbing hills and carrying loads is very physically demanding and for those who never do that kind of thing the sheer physical endurance nature of it can come as a shock. I love the hills but you have to learn that the puffing, grunting and sweating is all part of the fun.

Do you remember the days before sleeping mats?

karrimatI don’t know about you but sometimes I get all nostalgic about the way things used to be. Then I remember the benefits of what we have now and it soon passes away. I often remember the hardships of walking and hiking that we used to endure. Do you, for instance, remember the days before sleeping mats were invented? Can you imagine the discomfort of having to sleep on the floor? I suspect somebody will know when sleeping mats were first invented – I’m told it was in the 1970’s but I suspect it may have been earlier . However, I didn’t encounter them until I had been hiking for at least a couple of years. I remember my first yellow Karrimat (picture is not of my mat but one that someone else had for sale on gumtree – hope they don’t mind) – I think I still have it somewhere – it was a very luxurious item. I now sleep on a 5cm thick self-inflating sleeping pad and it is pretty good (I have my eye on a thicker one). Before the days of sleeping pads you had to find as much thick grass as possible to camp on (not easy on Dartmoor where it is either in thick clumps – nasty stuff – or very short) and then maybe dig out a depression for your hip to sit in and try and pitch the tent so the dip was in the right place – not easy. I’ve got soft these days because I have just bought a backup mat just in case mine fails and I can’t stomach the idea of sleeping without one.

Not everything used to be better or are we just getting soft?

Very wet weekend on Exmoor

Sleeping_in_a_tentJust had a very wet weekend with the Duke of Edinburgh bronze teams from Haygrove on their assessments. Congratulations to everyone  – who all achieved their aims. It was a real test on Saturday, having to get up in the rain and getting rained on nearly all day. I’m still drying out.

Farewell to Dad

meanddadI had hoped that this day would never come, the day when I have to say my farewells to my Dad. Tomorrow we have the funeral service but it seems every day since he died has had some sense of saying goodbye. It has been a time for a flood of memories to assault me and it seems even the simplest of things can bring them on.

Dad was not perfect but he was my Dad. During the many times in my childhood when my Mum was in hospital he was the one constant I could rely on. The needs of paying the bills meant that he often had to work long hours, especially when my Mum was in hospital and not working herself. This meant that on many occasions I only had myself to rely on to get on in life and my family will themselves testify that sometimes this means I rely too much on myself today when others are willing to help.

I am going to be taking the funeral service for my Dad tomorrow and when I did this for my Mum it turned out to be the hardest thing I have ever done – I anticipate the same will be true tomorrow. However, I’m doing it for my Dad because I want this one last thing I can do for him to be done properly – this is the last thing on this earth I can do for him.

I guess the memories will continue to flood in  – holidays, time spent working on the house together, making model air-planes, Navy Days, visits to castles, etc. At the moment they bring a sense of loss with them but I look forward to that time when they bring more feelings of gratitude and happiness – as they should.

So farewell Dad and may you find peace in God’s house.