On Sunday, 27 August, the focus of our Circuit Prayers was on Aylesbury
Peter shares with us the story of a historic link which when it started, was almost as ground-breaking and radical as the parables that Jesus used to illustrate his teaching. Jesus tells us to offer love and forgiveness to those who hurt us – here is an amazing practical example of that Christian love in action.
In 1963, just 18 years after the end of the Second World War, to some people, Christ's command to 'love your neighbour' would have had the caveat, 'unless they are German'! "They bombed Nan's chip shop" and similar sentiments were commonplace and feelings towards Germans in some families were still raw.
So, back then, it was a brave step to take when our youth club started a youth exchange with a German sports club in Daun, (pronounced Down). Youth club leaders at that time were the late Ken and Dean Dimmock, Jane Honeyball's parents. Speaking of her pride in what they did, Jane said that less than 20 years previously, her Dad had been fighting the Germans in the war. She said, "Many tears were shed with the hosts they stayed with. They became really good friends with so many of them." This was 'love your neighbour' in action, with no restrictions on who the neighbour was. And what rich rewards have come from those early days.
We suspect that those first Aylesbury and Daun leaders would be astonished to know that this month (August), fifteen current and past leaders and participants travelled to Daun to celebrate with their German friends the 60th anniversary of the exchange. Also, that for several decades now, the exchange was recognised as the longest running club-to-club youth exchange between our two countries.
During that time, literally hundreds of English and German youngsters and their leaders have had the broadening experience of sharing homes, food, fun and laughter with people of a different country, language and culture. Minds have been broadened, stereotyping discarded and lifelong friendships formed. Numerous young people over the years have commented on what a positive impact the experience had on their lives.
Viv Kemp, the current exchange leader with Dawn Wright reports that at the anniversary, both sides wanted to keep the exchange going. Next year, 2024, the Germans will be hosting our group in their homes in Daun. In 2025, we will be hosting the German group here. In recent years, it has been possible to include young people from around the circuit. So if any one is interested in finding out more, please contact Viv
Our German friends have also provided a scrap book of photographs over the decades. The text is mainly in German but if you would like to see the book, let me know and I will try to arrange it. Alternatively, if you would like a copy of the 50th anniversary booklet we produced in both English and German, with contributions from the great and the good and from participants from all five decades, just let me know and I can email you a copy.
Editors Note: Contact details can be found in the Circuit Directory.--------------------------------------------------
On Sunday 20th August we focus our Prayers on our Preachers
You've drawn the short straw this week – I have been asked to contribute my thoughts!(The event I am referring to happened over 60 years ago, happily things are better now!)I was brought up in a Roman Catholic household where Mum would attend Mass fairly regularly and I and my younger brother would go with her. Dad was usually busy in his shed down the garden! I remember the Priest would arrive on the doorstep on a Friday evening to collect his one and three pence (old money!), bless our house and then depart.At Secondary School I was not allowed to attend Religious Education lessons because the Roman Catholic Church didn't allow it, so I would sit on a chair outside the classroom reading a book, whilst all my friends studied inside. After a few terms of this I felt I could not carry on with what I thought was a ridiculous farce. I wanted to be with my friends and not stuck outside.So, I had a word with the RE teacher and she said Yes, of course I could join the rest of the class, it would be nice to see me. Unfortunately, the Priest got to hear of this and my mother and father along with myself were all summoned to the Headteacher's study one afternoon. The Headteacher, (an awesome character), Deputy Head (even more terrifying character!) and a few other people including a very tall, fearsome-looking Priest were all assembled in the study when my teacher showed me inside. I trembled ever so slightly! I think even the Headteacher was very careful when the Priest was around – you didn't mess with the Priest, a force to be reckoned with.The room fell silent.The Priest's opening line was that this was disgusting behavior and I and all my family were bound for eternal damnation and the fires of hell for this terrible sin.At this point my mother made a direct beeline for the Priest, and for a split second I honestly thought she was going to kill him. She told the Priest in a voice that instantly changed his aggression into a sort of acceptance that he may only have heard a few words so far, but he had heard enough to know he was not going to win this one. He backed off.She said, as far as I can remember, 'There is one Lord Jesus Christ and Peter can worship him in any Church he wishes, he has my blessing wherever he wants to go. I am just pleased that he wants to be a Christian. And don't bother coming around on Friday evening for your one and three pence because you are not getting any more.Stay away from my son and my house!'She then turned to me and Dad and said 'Come on, we are going home!'Everyone in that room recalled that saying about never coming between a mother and her cub, and they all moved rapidly to allow this woman who had just defied the Priest to leave, grateful that they were not in the firing line. My mother, normally a very quiet little lady, really grew in stature that day.This lesson has been key to shaping my approach to relations with other Christians and other Churches. I feel at home in any situation where the love of Christ is present and I feel quite strongly that we need to move with the times and adapt our Christian response to the problems and opportunities of this world. We need to be relevant and active for Jesus, because if we are not, we will be joining that Priest of over 60 years ago.Sometimes we have to speak out and say how we think it is and how it should be.After all, as my Mum said, 'There is one Lord Jesus Christ and he gets everywhere!
On Sunday 13 August, the focus of our Circuit Prayers was on Fairtrade
We join Rod, our Fairtrade Champion to learn how his upbringing within the Christian environment has shaped and influenced his passion for the principles of Fairtrade. Rod works tirelessly to ensure that the message behind the Fairtrade ethos is always prominent in all he does. Please support Rod and those who his work reaches out to and benefits, and pray that more people will become receptive to the message and consider the needs of others in their daily choices.
Why does anyone do what they do? Why does anyone become driven to follow a cause or adopt a philosophy to life?Many of you may recall the series that tracked the development of individuals from across sections of society, televising changes every seven years. It was based on a hypothesis that if you saw a child at seven, you could see the adult they would become.I don't recall too much of being seven, but I do remember my childhood as being settled, with family, friends, the Methodist Church and school being big factors influencing attitudes and character. Also, in the main, I knew there'd be food on the table from the garden or fields!I recall there being clear expectations, a community spirit of helping out others and many a phrase used to prompt and steer attitudes and actions. The latter can still resound today.Possibly one of the more repeated phrases was to question if something was a want or a need.It was while at the village Methodist Church, heavily supported by my relatives, that the notion of trying to make a difference was encouraged. It impacted on my choice of career, hobbies and many of my volunteering activities, which now includes some 40 years of supporting, and then promoting Fairtrade.No matter what our history, and perhaps contrary to the premise of the child shows the adult to be, the expectation is that, as Christians, the Bible can stimulate changes to attitudes and practices.I continue to find the actions portrayed in the story of The Good Samaritan to be revealing and also find questions raised by sayings in The Book of Proverbs, intriguing, prompting questions.Perhaps what drives us could link more to the question, 'What would Jesus do or say today?'
On Sunday 6th Circuit prayers were focused on Karibuni Children
This is a charity that our Circuit has supported for many years as it carries out invaluable work amongst the poorest young people in desperately poor areas of Kenya. This week we share Robert's story, a story of empowerment and true Christian love as Robert is given the resources to enable him to develop the skills required to have a positive impact on the community around him. It just shows what amazing things can be done if the opportunities are made available to people. Please pray for Robert and the work of Karibuni Children this Sunday and support their work where you can.
I was born in Tharaka, an Eastern region of Kenya, which is a vastly dry and stony area. I am the eldest of six children.At the age of seven years, I, my mother, and my five siblings were chased away by my father so that he could marry a second wife who was an educated wife compared to my mother, who never went to school. We moved far away and settled in a grass-thatched mud-walled hut, which later was swept away by floods. Other inadequate accommodation followed.I dropped out of school for two years to help my stressed mother whose two little babies were malnourished, weak and unable to walk. I earned small sums by loading sand from the river bed into lorries, weaving baskets and selling them on market day at ksh 20 (£0.12). We could go for three days or more without a meal.Mom had created in us the culture of praying in the morning, before any meal, and before we sleep. She took us to Sunday school every Sunday.At that time Primary education in Kenya was not free. So when I returned to school I was dependent on my father's support and at best that was intermittent. When he stopped paying I took on poorly paid jobs to raise some money but I missed much schooling.Three times I fainted in school assemblies due to hunger, but the teachers were so kind that they could give me something to eat.It was in 2003 that, via a newly established children's project in Tharaka, Karibuni Children heard of my situation and agreed to pay my school fees and buy new school uniforms and shoes. It was my first time to wear a shoe. I did well in my exams and qualified to join Kaaga Boy's high school in 2004, where I served as Christian Union chairman and the school captain.In March 2008 Karibuni Children supported me to pursue a Computer certificate course at Kenya Institute of Management and subsequently I joined Meru University of Science and Technology where Karibuni Children paid my university fees and upkeep to support me to achieve my dream. I served as Christian Union chairman and Vice President of the University Student Association. I also founded the Rotaract Club of the University which was a humanitarian club to support needy students and conservation of the environment.In July 2013, I graduated with second-class honours in the upper division.Looking back, my life turned around after I was rescued by Karibuni Children who sponsored me for education and upkeep after struggling for many years without any help.I now serve as vice chairman of a children's programme based in Meru, Kenya which is supported by Karibuni Children. I am also a Board Member of Kamatungu Primary/boarding school in Tharaka where I started my education.
- ---------------------------------------------------------------------On Sunday, 30 July, the focus of our Circuit Prayers was on the Circuit Leadership TeamDear AllWe follow the journey of Chris as she shares her story with us. Chris talks of a number of people who influenced her and together guided her journey with Jesus. To my mind this shows the value of being part of a loving community where everyone contributes to the story. Please remember in your prayers all those who labour tirelessly, and sometimes unseen, to offer the love of Jesus to all in their community.PeteChris writes:I was brought up in a very strict Methodist Family – no playing outside or exciting games on Sundays! In fact I still feel very guilty if I walk into a shop on a Sunday!However it was a very happy childhood so much of our lives revolved around the local chapel where my father and his three brothers were very involved. I remember particularly that one uncle ran the young peoples' Sunday school group and on many Sundays the Bible passage was illustrated by us acting out the story. These were printed out on small pamphlets. I felt these often made the passages come alive and I am sure my faith was strengthened by them.When I was about 16 we had a very charismatic young minister come to our church and one Sunday evening service he appealed for people who felt they wanted to give their life to Christ to come forward during the singing of "Take my life and let it be". I felt called to go forward but was too embarrassed. However at the fifth verse "Take my will and make it thine it shall be no longer mine" I felt I couldn't stay in my place any longer and had to go to the front. The small group of us then went on to attend membership classes and deeper Bible study. So began my journey of service to The Methodist Church firstly becoming a Sunday School teacher then whilst at training college in Cambridge joining Methsoc, gaining further from Bible study and discussion groups.On coming to Aylesbury my membership was transferred to AMC where I helped with the youth club in a small way. Arthur and I met through school events but our relationship was consolidated by our connection with The Methodist Church.After we were married with busy lives and no car at that time our involvement was sparse, but when our son was born and we brought him to be baptised we realised as we made those promises that we needed to once more put our faith into action and I became a teacher in the Sunday School and then a pastoral visitor. In a way this precluded any work out of AMC as I needed to be there every week.When Arthur began preaching we decided it was something that we wanted to do together. As I accompanied him around the circuit I realised I enjoyed worshipping amongst the different congregations and getting to know them. When I was asked to become a circuit steward, I felt this was me being offered a chance to serve in a different role. This is my second term of office and it is still a joy to come alongside people to hear their stories and to share in their faith journeys.Chris-----------------------------------------------------------------------On Sunday 23rd July, we were thinking about our work among young people.Dear AllI asked Emma about the work at Whitchurch – that's enough from me!PeteForwarded message from a parent- Hi Emma, I hope this is of some use....Little Chapel is a really welcoming place to come. Emma organises a wide range of activities that children of all ages can join in with. It's a great environment to gently introduce children to worship. As a parent I enjoy the fact that the sessions are always engaging but also calm and reflective. Alice and Rosie say that they enjoy playing with other children, singing and colouring. Alice would like to learn some new songs. The food always goes down a treat and all sitting and eating together makes the chapel feel like a big family.Emma writes:On Sunday, our Little Chapel service started like every other, with a "soft-start", as families dribbled in when they were able. All with excitement, keen to see each other and share stories of the past couple of weeks, since we last met, parents and children alike, an invaluable and soul affirming catch-up. Stories of babies born, trophies won, lost teeth, full-nights in beds, new teachers and schools. All because we are very much a family, delighting in each other's lives, together in God's House.Our time together is organic, never the same as our time before, or governed by the week's plan, but always reflecting the 'mood' of the room, and is always joyous.Joyousness was our theme for worship this Sunday. The God-given gift of finding happiness and joy in all that we do, and passing it on. We reflected on Ecclesiastes 3:12-13.I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live..The children were asked, what made them happy, and as well as those fabulously childlike responses of ice-cream, sausages, cuddles, Christmas and Bugs, a resounding joy of coming to Chapel was shared. We then asked them to share what they enjoyed about our time together at Chapel, and to tell us of anything we could improve?A resounding thumbs up was the topic of food!Thankfully, pizza making was on the cards this week, organised, joyous chaos. No time in the end for our planned craft or singing, but time for sharing of food. All sat together, preceded by our thanksgiving prayer, the children, parents and leaders continue to chat, the ebb and flow of laughter filling our tea room. The children then run off to have a (unorganised, independent) play afterwards, whilst the adults all muck-in to clear up.A harmony of shared belief, fellowship and joy, (all rolled up in the knowledge and understanding of how families are) before the next time we meet.Emma--------------------------------------------------------------------------Sunday, 16 July, was the turn of Wingrave to be the focus of our Circuit PrayersDear AllThis week we join Pat Roberts on her journey of faith. Pat has been a member at Wingrave for many years; during that time she has held several positions, including running the Sunday School. She also served as Senior Steward, following in the footsteps of her husband, Leslie.PetePat writes:When we married in 1956 Leslie and I used to say that we began the "Anglo-Methodist Conversations" (yes, back then!). I knew nothing of Methodism and it was a steep learning curve. However I made discoveries along the way and marvelled at the strength of purpose and strong bonds held and shared between members which continue to this day. To feel the warmth and reassurance this gives to my outlook in seeing the way forward is humbling indeed and I feel truly blessed. Thank you. Perhaps I'm still learning!Pat Roberts-----------------------------------------------------------------------------Sunday, 9th July, was the turn of Whitchurch to be the focus of our Circuit PrayersDear AllThis week we are sharing Roger's journey of faith. This is a journey that has led him through both the harsh reality of life as it is still lived in too many places today, and the joys of knowing that God does indeed care for all his children no matter what. Please remember in your prayers those for whom life is not easy or fair and who start life in circumstances where the home comforts that we take for granted are just a dream.PeteRoger writes:We have all arrived at our relationship with God through different routes. Here are a few highlights from mine.My Mother was a committed Christian whose faith had been strengthened during WWII by her experiences of Christian work whilst working in the Army both in the Blitz in London and on the Isle of Man.Although a Baptist she ensured that her husband, an Army Regular who was not demobbed until the end of 1947, and her three children worshipped and went to Sunday School, in a small West London Methodist Chapel. This building was condemned as it almost fell down and the site was sold for housing. It was replaced by a new church building set on a huge Council estate used to rehome those displaced by the War (including my family), bringing with them extreme poverty, lawlessness, fractured families and broken people. It was perhaps what we would today call a "sink" estate.It was here that I first experienced hostility to Faith, trust in God and the endurance and perseverance of Christian people. The church was beleaguered and having no full time Minister, relied upon loyal Local Preachers and then students from Richmond Theological College to administer Communion. It was beleaguered because it was seen as a centre planted by the "Authorities", its windows were continually smashed (in one year over 100 large panes were replaced), attempts made to burn the building down, its entrance repeatedly blocked and attendees at services shouted at.Despite all these challenges the faithful congregation continued to worship and work showing both their love of God and how Christian love works in the real world, by meeting the many needs of the area, steadily integrating themselves and slowly growing in numbers.Against this background I came to realise that I too wanted to share in the essence of Christianity and learn to love Christ and follow in his ways. After a 4 month Membership study course which really tested my commitment I formally became one of them at the age of 16, working for 5 years 3 nights a week and at weekends in that same now somewhat tamed church.I could say my faith was shaped by this experience and events such as facing gangs of brick-throwing youths wielding bicycle chains, trying to gate-crash the Church youth club, and as a consequence sound all " goody two shoes" but this wouldn't be true. What really happened was that God was working his purpose out through some of his spirit-led people on earth. Their example of faithful worship and loving service so deeply affected me that I joyfully accepted the commitment that faith requires.We may feel that our churches today, albeit in a different way, are beleaguered? I know I constantly fall short of what God wants for me, but long to be able to show the same faith, courage, steadfastness and love for others, first shown to me over 60 years ago.It worked then. Let's continue to strive to make it work now.Roger-------------------------------------------------------------------------On Sunday, 2nd July the focus of our Circuit Prayers was on Weedon.Dear AllMike shares his story with us and makes the important point that ours is not just a passive faith where we are merely observers, but an active faith where we all take part, and all have a part to play. A valuable aspect of our faith, sometimes overlooked, is in the support we are able to offer one another individually, and also collectively to those who pass through our doors. Please pray for all those who nurture our young people and plant those vital seeds of the gospel.PeteMike writes:My first recollection of attending church is being sent to the local Church of England Sunday School – I suspect as much as a means of giving my mum and dad some peace and quiet at home for an hour or so each week. I can't say that I really understood what was going on but that was where I first encountered the now familiar Bible stories and so I guess you would say it was the beginning of my faith journey.I had a very good school friend who lived up the road from me (rejoicing in the name of Stephen Diddams, how could I ever forget!) who badgered me to join his scout troop. They met in the hall at the back of Queensbury Methodist Church and to join the troop there was a requirement to attend their church parade every month. And that was my introduction to Methodism. I found it suited me better than the C of E and I quickly became a regular attendee at their Sunday School. I have considered myself a Methodist ever since and when we moved to Weedon in 2017 one of the first things I did was to transfer my Methodist membership.I have come to realise that faith is a very personal thing and experiences vary. I do not consider myself to be a particularly 'religious' person – I have never had a 'road to Damascus' event, indeed in many respects my life has been remarkably uneventful. But there is something that I have come to deeply understand: Our friends in the congregation have a whole range of skills, experiences and abilities, and whatever situation arises, good or bad, there is always someone able and ready to celebrate, provide help or support as needed without hesitation – it is such a caring and supportive community. And I am part of that community. I have skills, experiences and abilities too, and I hope that I am just as proactive in utilising them to help when the opportunity arises, whether it be for church-goers or those who, for whatever reason, are not. And my hope is that when I do so, as I continue my journey, I am reflecting in some small way the generosity that Christ showed to all of us.Mike---------------------------------