Saturday, 10 October 2009

Methodists in east Bristol (cont) and CATS


I ought to have mentioned that changes in demographics also led to the demise of east Bristol Methodism, (and Anglicanism)

The immigration of West Indians, and of South Asians changed the face of Easton. Growing prosperity and (white flight?) led to the children and grandchildren of old time Easton residents leaving for the new eastern suburbs of Downend, Bromley Heath, Oldland Common and Longwell Green. Others moved to the “new town” of Yate, some 8 miles east of Bristol.

West Indians were not welcomed by the existing congregations, so they formed their own. Tudor Road Methodist Church was sold to a (I believe) Church of God in Christ congregation as many as 50 years ago.

The old Redfield Methodist Church became a Sikh Temple.

My mother joined the Church of England, and her Church, St. Mark’s was in due course closed and merged with St. Anne’s, Greenbank. St. Mark’s Church (an interesting neo-Norman building) was converted into apartments, whilst the Church Hall became a Mosque.

St. Thomas Church of England on Fishponds Road was acquired by a Black congregation, as was the former Eastville Park Methodist Church, also on Fishponds Rd.

But in what we might call “Greater Kingswood” – the area where John Wesley preached - Methodism seems to have fared a little better. I’ve counted 12 Methodist Churches which yet survive. (These are in the areas of Kingswood, Hanham, Staple Hill, Shortwood, Longwell Green and Oldland Common.)


6:00 a.m. today

"Hey Dad. We've waited, and waited. Now open up that can of food, enough of this dry stuff"

"We are looking at the fridge. Can't you take a hint"

Friday, 9 October 2009

Methodists in east Bristol.

Wesley's "New Room in the Horsefair, Bristol, U.K.


Any history of “The people called Methodists” is inextricably linked with my home City of Bristol.

It was in the communities of Hanham and Kingswood, on the eastern fringes of Bristol, that John Wesley first preached in the open air, in 1739.

He was there at the behest of fellow Church of England Priest, George Whitefield, to preach to the coal miners who lived in a pitiable state, and who were ignored and despised by official religion.

Wesley’s first open air “pulpit” was at a place now called Hanham Mount - four miles east of where I grew up. He also preached at a place called Rose Green (now a housing development). Rose Green is but 8/10 mile from my childhood and young adult home.

It was also in Bristol that John Wesley built what he called a “New Room”, in the Horsefair. This was a place where he could live when in Bristol, and where he could preach.

And in Bristol, Wesley laid hands on another Anglican Priest, Thomas Coke, to make him Superintendent of the Methodist work in America.

In 1944 I was baptised in Eastville Methodist Church, Bristol at a time when east Bristol was hopping with Methodist Churches.

Within a 2 mile radius of my home there were at least fourteen Methodist Churches. I can name some of them from memory.

Whitehall Methodist Church;

Easton Road Methodist Church;

Tudor Road Methodist Church;

Bethesda on Church Rd, Redfield AND, just down Church Road, the Redfield Methodist Church;

Speedwell Methodist Church;

Eastville Methodist Church, AND, just up Fishponds Road, the Eastville Park Methodist Church.

There were three Methodist Churches where Lower Ashley Road intersected with Mina Road. (All three were torn down in a spate of Urban Renewal when the M32 motorway cut a swath through working class east Bristol to connect the City Centre with the M4 motorway.) They were replaced by the aptly named “Trinity Methodist Church”.

Now, in this same radius, there are but four Methodist Churches.

Why the decline?

1. English Methodism had divided into more than three groups following the death of John Wesley. So there might be two or three “Methodist” Churches from “rival” groups in the same area. In 1932 the three main groups (Wesleyan, United, and Primitive) were re-united. Thus the “rivalry” ended and it was obvious that in some neighbourhoods a merger of formerly rival congregations made sense.

2. My own experience shows me that too many local Churches were dominated by older “gate-keepers” who were unwilling to allow change. For instance – in the 1960s I did some “local preaching” in east Bristol Methodist Churches, including the Eastville Methodist Church at which Mum and Dad had been married, and where I had been baptised. I was happy to be there for Dad and Mum’s sake, but it felt like a “time warp”. The local leadership led the congregation as if nothing had changed between 1935 and 1965.

3. English religion is tied up with “class”. The leadership classes of local Methodist congregations were separated from their local communities by issues of class: - e.g. “Middle Class” leaders in “Working Class” neighbourhoods.

4. Religion is more a matter of sociology than theology, no matter what preachers, pastors, and priests say.


This proud Bristolian, baptised in a Methodist Church offers you the following links.

Thursday, 8 October 2009

Improvements to my Lanai


In the meantime, here are some pics of my Lanai (Screened in porch), before and after the recent renovations.




Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Dreams, cats and baptism

Ever since I can remember I have had the most vivid dreams, and been blessed with the ability to remember them.

Of course, from time to time I’ve had nightmares – and then awoke with a fast beating heart.

I also have funny dreams, and have frequently woken myself up by laughing. I call out and talk in my sleep – it’s altogether quite a performance.

In remembering the dreams I can usually make the connections, and suss out their origin.

The other night I dreamed that I went into “Easton Road Methodist Church” - a Church not too far from where I grew up (and a Church long since closed).

In my dream the Church became “Eastville Methodist Church” (also now closed) – the Church where my parents got wed, and where I was baptised in 1944.

My dream told me that I was there to baptise a baby. I found the wee child, wrapped tightly in a blanket, but left alone on a pew in the corner of the Church. I began to baptise the baby - with hot sauce. Naturally the baby protested, and immediately became one of my cats - glowering at me for the indignity of hot sauce on her head.

The cat turned back into a baby who kept saying “Mowl Hall”. My dad appeared in the dream saying that the baby had been born in a house named “Mowl Hall”.

At that moment I awoke, to hear my cat Ada outside my bedroom door uttering loud “miaows” - which of course had become “Mowl Hall” in the dream.

Earlier in the week I had been looking at old photographs of Easton, Bristol - so that’s where “Easton Road Methodist Church” came in.

And the week before I had put some “Front-Line” anti flea medication on the back of Ada’s head - much to her annoyance - and that’s where the baptising a child/cat/child with hot sauce came in.

The poor wee baby – left alone on a pew? Of course that was me (all the characters in our dreams are manifestations of our selves). That spoke of my fear (and a common human fear) of being alone, and perhaps forgotten.

This all has left me thinking about Methodism in east Bristol - of which I will write tomorrow.

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Some pics for today

Do you want to have children?

Or would you prefer a dog?

Or a shameless cat?

Above three images via my brother Martyn.


Indifferent (taddled from the web)

Monday, 5 October 2009

Happy Birthday Joyce

It’s the birthday today of my good friend Joyce Vidal Thornburg. I wish that she did not live so far away!

Her birthday reminds me of my visit to see her in Phoenix, AZ earlier this year. We went to the Desert Botanical Garden for a marvellous exhibition of Chihuly blown glass. You can read more about Chihuly on the following websites.

(The photo’s on this page were taken by Joyce - she sent them to me just a few weeks ago.)

Sunday, 4 October 2009

Sermon for 4th October 2009

Sermon for 4th October 2009. The Revd. J. Michael Povey at St. Boniface, Siesta Key, FL
Bible texts
Genesis 2:15 - 3:21
15The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it.
16And the Lord God commanded the man, “You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; 17but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die.”
18Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper as his partner.” 19So out of the ground the Lord God formed every animal of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. 20The man gave names to all cattle, and to the birds of the air, and to every animal of the field; but for the man there was not found a helper as his partner.
21So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then he took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. 22And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. 23Then the man said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; this one shall be called Woman, for out of Man this one was taken.” 24Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and clings to his wife, and they become one flesh.
Mark 10:2-16
2Some Pharisees came, and to test him they asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” 3He answered them, “What did Moses command you?” 4They said, “Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of dismissal and to divorce her.” 5But Jesus said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart he wrote this commandment for you. 6But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ 7‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, 8and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh. 9Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”
10Then in the house the disciples asked him again about this matter. 11He said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her; 12and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.”
13People were bringing little children to him in order that he might touch them; and the disciples spoke sternly to them. 14But when Jesus saw this, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. 15Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.” 16And he took them up in his arms, laid his hands on them, and blessed them.

Partnership, relationship, marriage and divorce.

Week by week at Eucharist we read from very ancient documents. We invest them with a particular value for we call them “The Word of the Lord”. From time to time we are tempted to roll our eyes, guffaw, or even groan when these words seem obtuse, ridiculous or patently false. It’s at those times that we remember that these sacred texts are the words of humans.
It is from these flawed and fallible human words that we, if we are lucky or careful, hear the word of God. That’s as it should be. For we, flawed and fallible humans, are also be the lenses through which others encounter God’s word.
As we read or hear the texts we are always asking “What is the story behind the story?” In other words: “who is telling the story?, and, “why is it told this way?, and “what kind of literature is this?”, and, “ what is the story tellers’ angle?”, and “where is God in all of this?”.
We hear the stories with faithful ears. We hear the stories with critical ears.
So when we look at the Genesis passage with critical eyes we recognize that what we read is in the realm of myth, not history.
All peoples have myths about their heritage and history. Myths are the attempt to convey important or even essential truths about who the peoples believe themselves to be. The one we read today from Genesis, is from the mythology of the Hebrew people.
As we read this mythology we are led to ask: What’s behind a story about a tree of the knowledge of good and evil; about the man’s naming of the animals; of the creation of a woman out of the man’s rib? How and why is this creation story different than the one in Genesis chapter one?
When we turn our attention to the Gospel reading it is to understand that Mark (and the other gospel compilers) are engaged in proclamation. They believe themselves to be “on to something” about Jesus of Nazareth, a “something” which can shape religious communities. This is not myth, it is propaganda.
What is Mark’s angle as he tells of the interchange between the Pharisees and Jesus? What is the story behind his story?
In previous weeks we’ve begun to understand the game plan of Mark’s gospel. It is to proclaim that Jesus is the Son of God. Mark has announced this in his opening words.
But the “story behind the story” is that the book is crafted as though this was a secret. A secret which was uncovered by various people at various times – beginning with the people at the fringes – a leper, a paralyzed man, a crazed man in a cemetery, a foreign woman etc etc. Inward from the fringes the disciples begin to “get it” - well almost get it.
Today Mark leads us to hear from the ones who will never “get it” – those in the very centre – the religious leaders of the day.
Notice that the Pharisees come to test him. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. They may be “testing him” in the sense that we also to “try ideas or things out”. Whatever was in their minds, (and even Mark does not know that) Jesus lobs the question back at them with his “you tell me what your own sacred writings say”.
So they quote Moses, and Jesus interprets Moses back to them, but he does not answer their question.
It is at this point that our critical questions arise. They arise not for the sheer sake of it, but because in the quest to hear the Word of God, our questions are often more illuminating than the answers of others. Here are two of mine.
Is it possible that the words Jesus speaks to the disciples “in the house”, to the effect that re-marriage after divorce amounts to adultery, are not in fact from “the lips of Jesus”, but have been inserted by some later and more zealous Christian scribe? After all, there is not much in the Gospel which would lead us to believe that Jesus is in the business of making new laws.
How do we deal with the fact that, in the matter of divorce and re-marriage, the Apostle Paul modifies what Jesus has allegedly “ruled” in this passage?
When I was in seminary I learned to love the questions. I still do.
Having raised some questions with you this morning I have no intention of suggesting answers.
These Genesis and Mark readings lead us to ask questions about what is the Word of God, and what are human words regarding partnership, relationship, marriage and divorce?
With you, I know that this whole business of partnership and marriage seems to be in our genes, and as a believer I would say – by design. I also know that the knowledge of good and evil, together with the hardness of the human heart will sometimes lead to painful fracture in human relationships.
But I also believe that the death and resurrection of Jesus means that new life is possible when old life has died or been killed. Let me put that another way. “New love is possible when old love has died or been killed”. New life. New love.