David Owen cont

….This led me to being accepted as a Local Preacher on the Full Plan, and my Superintendent Minister, the Revd Dr Arthur Atwell, refusing to accept my excuses for delaying ordination any further. I completed the candidate’s examinations and was appointed as a Probationer Minister in the Jeffreys Bay and Humansdorp societies of the Port Elizabeth West Methodist Circuit. Here, I ministered to many people in ‘mixed’ marriages, i.e. Afrikaners married to English speakers, where the former found the Anglican Church too ‘Catholic’ and the latter, the Dutch Reformed Church (DRC) too ‘conservative’. Being fluent in Afrikaans at the time meant that I was warmly received by both communities, sometimes even taking services in Afrikaans in the DRC. While here, I was invited to chair the local Peace Committee. This committee organised hustings and trained conflict resolution counsellors in preparation for the first democratic elections, where I was one of the Peace Monitors. Once democracy had dawned, I felt free to move ‘home’ to the UK, my minor role challenging apartheid now being completed.

I never imagined that the church culture would be so different in the UK and needed time to reflect on my calling, and so withdrew from ministry and was appointed Lay Chaplain to Oswestry School and eventually also head of History and Religion and Philosophy. The Church kindly took me under its wing again and I was encouraged to return to the fold and was ordained as a Minister in Sector Appointment in York Minster in 1998 (with Jenny Dyer). The great joy of this time was the birth of our only child, Gareth.

By this time, I began to feel very much more at home in the British system and began considering a return to Circuit ministry. But it was also a time of serious illness, firstly Meniere’s Disease which has left me deaf in the left ear and a pancreatic tumour leading to 11 hours of surgery and a reconstructed digestive system, in 2001. I was advised at the time, that Circuits would find it difficult to offer me an invitation because of my health condition, and so I continued as a Chaplain and teacher. By this time, I had moved from Oswestry to Oxford (The Dragon School) and eventually to Taunton School (a Congregational / Baptist foundation). Here I was needed to redeem Religious Studies that had not been examined for over 13 years, and to assist with the introduction of the International Baccalaureate (IB) with its Theory of Knowledge (ToK) (basic epistemology) and secular philosophy courses.

When I felt it time to move, the position at Loughborough became available and offered us the opportunity to give Gareth a multi-faith, multi-cultural understanding that is ‘normal’ (as opposed to my South African experience).

Apartheid, abuse, deafness and serious illness all provided me with the need to do serious theological reflection, because, on the surface it makes little (sometimes no) sense. During the lengthy recovery from the tumour, which thankfully turned out to be benign, I realised that much of the theology of my youth was seriously lacking. This is when I decided to read those with whom I thought or was told to disagree with. And the experience set me free to explore the wonders of contemporary as well as ancient theology.

While at Loughborough Grammar School I worked closely with the Headmaster, Paul Fisher (a liberal lay Roman Catholic), on a project entitled The Spirit of the School. This was based on the published work of Professor Julian Stern, and calls for an inclusive theology of education. The journey was both enriching and with the best practical results in uplifting the ‘spirit’ of the school. The programme is largely based on the principles of strong inclusion, where differences are celebrated rather than merely tolerated. The focus revolves around the quality of relationships, inspired by Martin Buber’s ‘I – Thou’, where all are treated as ‘thou’ because they are of immeasurable value as being in the image of God, and never ‘I – It’ where people are used to achieve some particular end.

And now finally, my work in schools is done, and I feel free to return to Circuit ministry. While I have maintained a regular circuit preaching ministry throughout my time as a Chaplain, I very much look forward to the privilege of sharing in the journeys of the people of God called Methodists in the Derby Circuit as we get to know each other pastorally, enjoy prayer and fellowship, study the Scriptures and share in the sacraments together.

 

Revd David Owen

Welcome to Revd David Owen

I was born in East London, South Africa to a British father and a French Huguenot and British descendant mother, and baptised at St Andrews Presbyterian Church in 1958. My parents began my real Christian nurture in the first multi-racial Presbyterian Church in South Africa, which we joined when I was four years old, because they, together with their minister, the Revd Robbie Robertson, could not reconcile segregated worship with the message of Jesus. When we moved to Kimberley when I was 12, they found another kindred spirit in the Methodist Minister, the Revd Sydney Friedland, and so we as a family became Methodists.

I attended a very mediocre state boarding school but had the privilege of coming under the influence of the Revd Canon George Pressley, my English master, who was frequently locked up because of his anti-apartheid activities. Together with the support of the school Chaplain, I ‘converted’ to the Anglican Church and felt called to ordination (and possibly the monastic life) in my penultimate year at school. I came under pressure to read law, and so did so for a year, but was more influenced by a sojourn in the Community of the Resurrection (CR), the onetime home of Trevor Huddleston, which confirmed my desire to begin the path to ordination. I moved to the University of Natal, during which time I was accepted as an Anglican ordinand. The bishop told to me to complete my degree and then do compulsory military service first, and then return for further vocational advice. I found this a bit strange and disappointing, because I was hoping for some advice as to how, as a Christian, I could deal with the crisis of conscience military service under an apartheid government, presented!

A very effective way of deferring national service was to be a registered full-time student. I had met Trish at an Anglican / Methodist youth group, and we had decided to get married. Trish is a cradle Methodist raised in a family where all people were accepted without reservation and so experienced much of Asian African as well as the traditional Zulu culture of Natal. Her Father was a fluent Zulu speaker and was much loved by these people.

On graduating, I explored the possibility of a vocation as a teacher before ordination, as I saw the importance of education in the liberation of the people. In addition, if I trained as a teacher, I was offered a bursary which was just enough for us to live on, and so I completed a diploma in education specialising in History, Biblical Studies and Religious Education. I was then invited to do a postgraduate history degree, which meant deferring military service for yet another year. By now, Trish had qualified as a teacher and was able to support us, even though, as a married woman, she was never allowed to hold a permanent position and earned significantly less than any male teacher with the same qualification!

On completion of this degree, I planned to continue with further post-graduate work, but was refused deferment and landed up in the training unit for officers in the Military Intelligence Corps. After some abuse during basic, second and third phase military training, I refused a commission and was eventually allowed to work as a social worker in a poverty stricken Griqua and so-called ‘Coloured’ community, as a non-combatant. While here I was licensed as a sub-deacon in the Anglican church and began to preach reasonably regularly. On completion of National Service, I returned to the Church for vocational advice, but found my ministry fulfilling as a school teacher and lay minister in the Church, and so was happy to wait. However, I became increasingly uncomfortable as history teacher especially teaching exam classes, because of the pro-apartheid propaganda that was so central to the syllabus. As a result, I left teaching and worked with an archaeologist researching Zulu history on a contract. I briefly returned to my alma mater teaching RE and non-examined History, until I was invited to be head of the History division of a research institute associated to Rhodes University in Grahamstown. My new employers encouraged me to publish my misgivings about the schools’ history syllabuses, and to do research into the Xhosa leadership in the region from the late Iron Age to the release of Nelson Mandela (leading to two minor volumes). While doing this, I also worked on a thesis on Methodist and Anglican mission history and theology (eventually graduating with a Master of Theology degree) and felt drawn back into the Methodist fold.

cont

Do not be afraid

Aside


Do not be afraid, you wild animals, for the pastures in the wilderness are becoming green. The trees are bearing their fruit; the fig tree and the vine yield their riches. Joel 2:22 (NIV)

Newmount’s 80th Anniversary

Newmount’s 80th Anniversary

In September 2019, Newmount Methodist Church celebrated its 80th Anniversary. There were two weekends of special services combined with a weeklong exhibition of Stories from the Knitted Bible. For the Anniversary Sunday we were delighted to welcome Rev David King to lead our services. David is the son of Rev Kenneth King who had been our Minister during the period 1964-69, and David and his wife Margaret and their children were part of our church family until the early 1990’s when David became a Minster himself and they moved to the North West. After the morning service our invited guests were able to catch up on old times as we served a sit down lunch for ninety! During the rest of the week the exhibition of thirty one stories from across the Old and New Testaments and church archives were open every afternoon and evening and it was good to see a steady trickle of visitors from far and near, including some from northern Scotland.

Our celebrations continued the following weekend with a family activity afternoon and the dedication of a new pulpit fall given in memory of Mary Loydall. The design, for Harvest, was mostly hand sewn by one of Mary’s daughters, Ann Malkin. We concluded the anniversary celebrations in style with a rousing Sing Sankey! evening which, as always, brought friends from across the Circuit to join us. Our anniversary prayer is printed below.

We give thanks for the vision and commitment of all the members and friends at Newmount who have gone before us.  We pray now, that the same Lord whom they served, will continue working in us by the power and presence of His Holy Spirit, to grant us grace and love such that this church will be sustained as a place of worship and fellowship, a centre of teaching the biblical truths and a place of mission to our community.

Ruth Croft, Church Steward

The Methodist Church in Derby (some insights)

The Methodist Church in Derby (some insights)

On the evening of August 16th 1762, John Wesley came to Derby. He did not intend to preach but to visit a Mr and Mrs Dobinson, who recently had left London to settle in Derby. They sympathised with the new evangelistic movement. There was a Divinity shaping his ends! The people, hearing of Wesley’s visit, crowded the house. He could not hold his peace. “I spoke to them for half-an-hour …. and then spent some time in prayer.” That night God created the Methodist church in our town. Within two years, the first Methodist church in Derbyshire was built.

This historic sanctuary still stands in St Michael’s Lane, near the Conference Church. It is now used as an organ builder’s workshop. Many mighty men and movements are associated with it. There John and Charles Wesley preached several times, as also did “Fletcher of Madely”, Jabez Bunting and other Methodist heroes.

Among the first to join the new society was George Cooper who became Derby’s first Methodist local preacher. His great grandson, Rev Robert Lamplough, who in 1887 became President of the South African Conference, studied under a Derby mathematician, whose wife was a member of Mrs Lamplough’s society class. One of the sons of this tutor and his worthy spouse, is known throughout the world as the eminent English philosopher, Herbert Spencer.

Advent Letter from our Superintendent:

Advent Letter from our Superintendent:

Thirty years ago, on Sunday 17th December 1989, I preached to a little congregation in Liverpool. I was a local preacher then, and heavily pregnant with my second baby. On the following Sunday (Christmas Eve), Jacob was born.

What I had preached on that Sunday morning was what it must have been like for Mary. My first labour had been rather short, and during the early months of this second pregnancy I suppose I had rather revelled in the possibility that this second baby might be born somewhere odd and exciting. But as the due date approached, I really just wanted to be at the hospital, where everything was nice and clean, and where there were people who knew what they were doing.

Poor Mary gave birth at the equivalent of the roadside, and the cleanest place she could find to put her baby was the animals’ feeding trough. It must have been really awful for her. Standing before that congregation, I felt that I was standing with Mary in her anxiety about the coming birth. But more importantly, she was standing with us. Or rather, in allowing his Son to be born in this way, God was standing with humankind in all the muck and misery of life, and especially with the poor, and those far from home, without a clean, warm place to sleep.

Blessings, Jenny Dyer

Hymn Reflections: O Love that wilt not let me go (StF 636)

Hymn Reflections:     O Love that wilt not let me go (StF 636)

This hymn was composed by George Matheson (1842-1906) a well-known Scottish Minister. He was born with only partial sight, but nevertheless did well at Glasgow University, earning a first in the Classics. He felt called to ordination, but by the time he entered the seminary in Edinburgh, he was totally blind. It is told that at this time, he needed to face the additional blow of his fiancé leaving him, because she felt she could not deal with his disability. One of his sisters taught herself Hebrew, Greek and Latin to help him in his theological studies, and she remained with him to support him in his preaching and pastoral ministry all his life.

There are several conjectures regarding the cause of the mental distress which led Matheson to write the words of this beautiful hymn. One of the most popular is that, on the day of the marriage of his other sister, he remembered the love he had lost when his fiancé left him. There are many significant hints in the hymn that might support this, such as the ‘flickering torch’ and the ‘borrowed ray’ in the second verse, the ‘tracing of the rainbow through the rain’ in the third and the ‘cross’ in the last verse. Matheson himself left an account of his writing of the hymn, but without any direct reference to this, but this could be because of the typical reserve of the Victorian period. He explained ‘… something happened to me, which was known only to myself, and which caused me the most severe mental suffering. The hymn was the fruit of that suffering …’ What is especially interesting is that Matheson said that the hymn was the result of a special inspiration, and that he completed it in five minutes without any need for correction. He explained that he ‘… had the impression of having it dictated to me by some inward voice …’ His other famous hymn Make me a captive Lord and I shall be free was a product of his usual method of careful crafting and Matheson concluded that ‘… I have never been able to gain once more the same fervour in verse …’

The tune (St Margaret) was written by Albert Peace (1844-1912) specifically for this hymn a year later, and he had a similar experience. He explained: ‘… After reading it over carefully, I wrote the music straight off, and may say that the ink of the first note was hardly dry when I had finished the tune.’

I have no reason to doubt the credibility of both stories of words and music, and it has been my experience that whether reading these inspired words alone or singing them to this inspired tune, I too know the joys of being able to ‘trace the rainbow’ through whatever rain might be my life experience at the time, and even in the best of times, of being truly blessed by them.

The Revd David Owen

Postscript by Trish Owen:

The ribbon in my beautiful leather-bound edition of Hymns and Psalms stays permanently at this hymn. It is deeply personal to me having seen me through David serious illness, when our son was just two years old and the death of close family members. I remember particularly ‘And from the ground where blossoms read, life that shall endless be.’

St Thomas’ Road Simply Worship

Simply Worship at St Thomas’ Road MC, DE23 8RL

10.30am, Sunday once a month Led by Revd Jenny Dyer and some of our Local Preachers

Dates:  4 August, 1 September, 6 October, 3 November

Christian worship, aiming to be accessible to everyone, including people with special needs or dementia Tea and coffee, craft and chat, songs and stories

For more information contact Rev Jenny Dyer 01332 346715  jenny.dyer@methodist.org.uk