Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The need for Rest (and why we aren't penguins

On Sunday my minister told us that if we learnt one thing in Church that day it is that we are not penguins. And he has a very good point! But he had a much deeper point than that, and I am going to try and present that now, with my own observations and twist on it. So here goes! (Side note, I spent three years at Uni wanting to finish an introduction to an essay with ‘So here goes’ but never did...)

The sermon started with a clip for the film March of the Penguins, talking about how in the winter penguins never get to rest, as they are constantly having to keep warm and look after their eggs. They never get to kick back, relax and just chill (sorry, too obvious a pun to leave out!). And it is in this way that we are unlike a penguin, or at least should be. Not only do we like, want and need rest, but God orders us to rest. The fourth commandment says:

‘Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labour and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God… For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but He rested on the seventh day.’ (Exodus ch 20 v 8-11, NIV)

God sees the important of rest, for He himself rested. And as we are made in His image, then it makes sense that we too need rest. As my minister said, this doesn’t need to be taken to the extreme of the Pharisees who even outlawed spitting on the ground on the Sabbath as this could be seen as watering the ground or some Jewish groups who refuse to press a lift button on the Sabbath. And the rest needn’t be taken on a Sunday, as this is often the busiest day for some Christians by the very nature of their calling. But we should all set aside some time to do what penguins can’t; kick back, relax and chill.

The sermon went on to explore what we need to rest from. It’s not just the chance for a quick power-nap. We need to do what we can to remove any burden on us to properly rest, whether that burden be stress over money, personal lives, job security or worries over health or family or any of the other burdens that we have weighing us down. It is only when we remove this that we can truly rest. I’m not saying that it is easy; I have often been kept awake by various worries or stresses (weirdest of all is that I can never seem to sleep if I know I need to be up early because I’m worried I might over sleep!), and I don’t have a quick-fix solution. But the best person to turn to for help is God. Jesus says “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew ch 11 v 28, NIV). There is a line from a worship song that says ‘Father, I place into your hands the things that trouble me… For I know I always can trust you’ (Father I Place Into Your Hands, Kingsway Thankyou Music, 1975), and this is what we are called to do, to place all our troubles, our stresses, our burdens and our worries into the hands of the Lord, for He is greater than all of any these and, when we are at our lowest, He will carry us through. And when Jesus took on the greatest burden, to be nailed to a piece of wood with the weight of all our sins on His shoulders, He removed the barrier that keeps us from God, and allows us to hand over our burdens.

My minster told a story of someone he knew who used to give talks to a Young Wives group in Liverpool and, whenever he started his sermons, the women would start nodding off. This worried him, so he thought about it, prayed about it and then it struck him that what he needed to do was to preach for longer! These women were carrying the weight of a young family on their shoulders, and this group was where they felt safe enough to relax, and God was giving them time to rest. So the sermons regularly lasted an hour, so that these young women could get rest before going back to the hustle and bustle of daily life.

So, I challenge you, and myself, to set aside a time to rest, to kick back, relax and chill with God. For it is what we are told to do. So find some time, turn off your computer, put your phone on silent, pray to God to relieve you of your burdens and spend some quality time doing nothing but relaxing in the safety and comfort of the Lord your Father. And this won’t be time wasted, as it should leave you refreshed, re-vitalised and raring to go.

Monday, July 11, 2011

About Uni Fees and Hypocrisy

Today’s BBC Wales news had an feature on the fact that 8 of the 10 Welsh universities would be charging the maximum £9000 fees for some, if not all, courses. No surprise there really. But what annoyed me in the film they showed, and in the general discussion of university fees, is the hypocrisy of people.

A popular argument for the higher fees is that of ‘why should “we” the taxpayer be paying for someone else to go to university, so that they can get a better job and earn more money?’ Aside from the necessity of a university education for many careers that benefit wider society (see my post from 15th November 2010 here) I have two retorts to that. One, better wages equals more income tax, therefore more money going to the Treasury. Secondly, the aforementioned hypocrisy. Prior to 1998, most students got a full grant for university, so it was totally free. This was paid for by the taxpayer. So, chances are anyone over the age of 31 who has a university degree got it for free. Then these people have the cheek to say that students a scrounging off the state now.

As I said at Methodist Conference, I believe that education is a right for all. If I was looking at a £21000 university course plus living costs I probably wouldn’t be able to go, as I couldn’t afford that kind of debt. I was lucky that by going to a welsh university and living in Wales meant that I only paid around £1200 a year. And I applaud the Welsh assembly for capping the amount welsh students pay at about £3600. But the traditional right-wing polices of limiting social mobility will bite. And it will not be a good thing for any of us.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Final two days at Conference, and som final thoughts

Sorry this is late, but I have been busy/sleeping/catching up with bits and pieces. Also this post may be a little more articulate that the previous few, as I am back to using a full keyboard and spell cheaper, rather than my small fruit-based device.

So, Wednesday:

Another positive step for Methodist Youth! Following a presentation from JPIT (Joint Public Issues Team), we had a chat with them about the possibility of them working closer with young people at all stages of their work. And what is even better is that they asked us, not the other way round. This is just one example of the impact that young people are having now. There were about 15 young people at Conference, and their voices were heard! All I hope is that this continues in the post-Conference era, and that we get more and more young people are at in Plymouth next year. I was also very excited to hear that, in the past few years, the Methodist Church in Sri Lanka passed a resolution so that a quarter of their Conference is young people and that any meeting at any level has to have young people on it. I wouldn’t want to impose this here, as it would be bordering on tokenism, but I think these kinds of levels are what we should be striving for, as young people are not only ‘the Church of tomorrow’ (as so often is heard), but are very much the Church of NOW.

Thursday saw a lot of tidying up work with various formalities. However these were presented by people who made even the changes to Standing Orders seem interesting, a God-given gift if there ever was one. We also said farewell to a legend of Methodism, Ken Howcroft. He is off to be our man in Rome, and will be missed. The closing of Conference was a very clever and seamless mix of the formalities and worship, re-enforcing the fact that while it is technically a ‘business’ meeting, everything that we were doing was so that the greater glory of God can be shown.

I was actually quite sad to leave Southport. I had spend a week with some good friends, new and old, and always find that I hit a bit of a low when I return to the ‘real world’ from big Christian gathering full of passionate people. However, as was mentioned numerous times throughout the week, we need to go into the world to make the changes we were calling for.

So that is the end of my time at Conference for 2011, but I am hoping to go again next year. But before I finish I would like to thank a number of people. Firstly, Wales Synod for giving me the opportunity to attend, and supporting me. The other young people who where there, in whatever capacity. It was amazing to be part of a group who were so passionate about what they believed and so dedicated and hardworking that they got it done. I would also like to thank all the members of Conference who gave us help, support and guidance when we needed it. A lot has been said about the social media aspect of this year’s Conference, and the hard work for the Methodist Media team for enabling so many people across the Connexion to be involved, even if there weren’t sat in the Floral Hall. I would also like to thank all those who were tweeting, who know who you are. And finally to Beryl, my Conference prayer twin, for her cheery nature and prayers.

There we go! I am going to try and keep up the blogging, though it obviously won’t be all Methodism. Saying that, the work for Youth Assembly is stepping up soon, so watch this space!

God Bless


Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Tuesday at Conference

Today was so positive!

Today saw a concerted effort from supporters both young and 'old' to ensure that Methodist Youth will have a voice in the long term. Conference agreed to ensure the Youth President will return to a full time paid role, and that this will continue past 2013. This is amazing news and such a good step in furthering the participation of young people in the Connexion.

These changes would not have been without the dedication, determinism, resilience and passion for the young people at Conference, and the support of a number of 'adults' with these same qualities. I would like to say a massive thank you to all those people, and to God for blessing Methodist Youth with them. I simply pray that this will continue and grow in the future.

I won't say much about the rest of business, as I have little to say about them. I do ask that we pray for all those affected by the sensitive business (I.e. Safeguarding).

I rose to speak four times today, and am so glad I did. It was so daunting the first time, I was shaking and I had written what I wanted to say. By the fourth time I was speaking from my mind and felt a lot my comfortable. If you are at conference and are yet to speak, I strongly advise that you do!

Another thing that amazed me today was the level of social engagement with Conference. At one point today the #methconf twitter hashtag was getting 17 messages a minute and,at it's highest, the live video feed had 117 viewers. Methodist Media are doing an great job, as are other tweeters. It is interesting to see discussions happen between delegates and others running parallel to the Conference debate, and to me this actually allows for greater democracy, as more people are having their say.

Today also saw the trial of two new things, electronic voting and Parallel sessions. The electronic voting was misused in my opinion, used when it was not necessary and not used well when it was. At £2500 per day, it was an expensive experiment but hopefully it will be adopted, and implemented better. The parallel sessions saw Conference split into four and look at separate reports in parallel. I was in the Missing Generation report bit, and I'm not sure how well these sessions work. However, I am aware that it is only the first time it has happened, so there was bound to be teething problems. We'll see how it goes.

Right, it's 1am an I need sleep, so goodnight, God bless and sweet dreams

Matt Collins, Wales Synod (aka @gingermethodist)

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Being picky

'the Conference receives the Report and directs on the Faith and Order Committee to create a liturgy for the Renewal of Baptismal Vows, including the use of water.'

That comma changes how I read the resolution. This the use of water for the Renewal or the creating? If F&O have water at their meeting does that count? :-p

Sunday and Monday at Conference

It's been a very interesting two days, and Sunday morning seems so long ago.

Sunday's worship was passionate and engaging. But lunch with of young people saw a large number of worries about the future of connexitional youth being discussed. We were planning to write a Notice of Motion (NoM) which would have caused big ripples. This was put on hold as some of us went off for ordinations.

I went to see my old youth worker, David, get ordained. The pews were not comfy, but the service was good.

Sunday evening saw a drinks reception for U23s/Children & Youth team/random others. While I didn't see it at the time, God was clearly at work in that room. Many of our fears were put aside, and I for one felt so much more positive. We started to formulate a NoM relating to one issue we still feel needs to be addressed. We spent until about 1.45am working on it before calling it a night and heading to bed, agreeing to meet at 8am to continue the work.

This happened, and so did the start of Business proper. Money and vision were discussed (among others) but at times I felt the balance was a bit off. We also discovered the hoops that need to be jumped through to get a NoM accepted. Thanks to the hard work and dedication of a number of people, we finally got there.

I was planning an early night, but got chatting and now it's 1.20 and I still have to swot up on the Youth Pres and MYA reports for tomorrow's discussion. So I'm retiring to my room to do that now.

I will try my best to blog tomorrow, but can't promise it.

God bless, Matt

Sunday, July 3, 2011

First Full Day at Conference

Well what a day! Breakfast was quite good, but dropping fried egg on yourself is not advised!

The morning was a newbie's intro to conference, but I feel Youth Conference prepared me well. Then a workshop on Climate Change and it's effects on the developing world with MRDF. Very interesting and thought provoking.

Lunch was like herding cats, but we finally got a Boots meal deal and sat but the water. Had an interesting discussion about the direction of the YPS, and all I will say is that it could be an interesting few years...

The afternoon saw the new President and Vice President be approved. Leo's address on the importance of pastoral care, be from ordained and lay people, was very challenging and I look forward to hearing more. Ruth's address was based on 4 images and was also very interesting.

This was completed with a sketch on the bible in 7 minutes, interspersed with song from the new Methodist hymn book, Singing The Faith. It was amazing to see the energy of Conference when singing fairly modern songs! And a snippet of Guide Me O Thy Great Jehovah was the icing on the cake!

With Conference adjourned, a group of us headed to Frankie and Bennys for food, and had some very interesting chats. Now sat in the hotel lobby (no wifi in my room), shattered and about to turn in. Tomorrow is a quieter day; Conference Worship in the morning and an ordination service in the Afternoon. Business proper starts on Monday.

Right, night all and God Bless!