A Wet Feet story from North Belfast

15 April 2014

I'm grateful to Rev Mervyn Ewing for this this wonderful 'wet feet' story from Cavehill and Jennymount.

Back in April 2013 all the Methodist Church Councils in Belfast District were invited to a meeting where we were challenged by the District Superintendent to discuss the question – where is the God of mission leading us? Lots of ideas came out of that meeting like how might we share resources, what could we do together and save on doubling up. The District was divided in to four areas North, South, East and West and each of the four areas was encouraged to have conversations locally among their Church Councils. The purpose of these meetings was to continue to tease out this question – where is the God of mission leading us?

In May the five Church Councils in North Belfast (Woodvale, Shankill, Joanmount, Cavehill and Jennymount) met and we began to consider how we might work to support and encourage one another. That meeting led to a monthly prayer bulletin being produced and circulated with specific prayer points from each of the Circuits and a pulpit exchange between ministers on the five Circuits was arranged.

These conversations were carried over into Conference where the challenge changed focus slightly and we considered How is the God mission stirring us? For us in North Belfast it was another opportunity for Woodvale, Shankill, Joanmount, Cavehill and Jennymount to talk together.

At Conference one of the major challenges was around the notion of getting our ‘feet wet’. The President asked the question ‘what will wet feet look like?’ One of the things the President said struck a chord with me “Wet feet might look like saying I will let go of the structures I know and love if that means that we are better able to make known the good news about Jesus.”

We in Jennymount have known for a long time that we would not be able to remain as a single Church Circuit indefinitely. In June after returning from Conference I used the President’s theme “A People Invited To Follow” and talked about ‘wet feet’ and suggested that for us here ‘wet feet’ will mean faithfully stepping out of our comfort zones and into whatever and wherever God leads us and I made the point that “wet feet might mean continuing the conversation with neighbouring circuits asking questions like – what are we prepared to let go of and what risks are we prepared to take so that God can do a new thing among us?”

So the conversation continued with Cavehill and soon became more intentional and focussed – a timeframe of meetings was arranged so that we could properly consider things like – benefits and opportunities that may emerge, our respective church histories, what are our local mission emphases, local challenges, what things can we do together. We asked what would a new Circuit look like and what name should we give it? We looked at Circuit staffing, finance and budgeting and we began imagining a closer relationship between our two church families. We continued to tease out what a new Circuit would look like and what changes would need to happen. We recognised that other Methodist Church families may in the future want to come on board and we are open to that. There was great camaraderie among leaders and it was becoming increasingly clear as we met, talked and shared together that there was a kinship developing and neither party felt threatened by the other. Enormous maturity was displayed by both Church Councils as we delegated finance and budgetary responsibility to a few trusted leaders skilled in this area.

Those discussions were very constructive and created the bedrock for both Church Councils to formally agree the budgetary processes for calculating the budget for the new Circuit proposed by the Finance Sub-group and give approval to form a Cavehill Jennymount Methodist Circuit which was fully endorsed by both Circuit Executives which has been accepted by Belfast District Synod and everything being equal a new Circuit will be born at Conference this year.
Two positive and tangible outcomes from our conversations so far has been a joint Preachers Fellowship which is made up of ministers and Local Preachers from both Cavehill and Jennymount and the Diocesan Lay Reader from St Paul and St Barnabas Church of Ireland and we have just completed our first United Bible study.

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