18 May 2023
The Tolpuddle Pilgrimage: A Methodist Story of Social Justice
On Saturday 6 May, a group of pilgrims arrived at the village of Tolpuddle, Dorset, under a grey sky and drizzle. Their journey had started the previous Monday at John Wesley’s New Room in Bristol. Over the following week, they walked along both busy and quiet roads, under sun and rain, passing through villages including Chew Stoke, Wells, Castle Cary, Sherborne and Hilfield Friary before arriving at Tolpuddle.
“This pilgrimage began as a piece of youth work trying to engage young adults with the Methodist Church’s history ”, states the Revd Richard Sharples, minister at Victoria Methodist Church in Bristol. And it worked. A few years ago, they had only two young people joining them, there were four this year. “It’s important for the Church to recognise that what matters to young people is not the Methodist Church per se, but the difference the Methodist Church and people are making or can make”, adds Richard Sharples.
The group of pilgrims was dynamic, some staying a while, some leaving the group for a few days before coming back and some joining on the last day. Some are Methodists, some from other denominations, and some who belong to no denomination, but they all came together to walk and discuss their interest and commitment to social justice. Jack, one of the young pilgrims, says, “It’s been a really good week but challenging at times. In this time of industrial turmoil, I felt it was important to learn about the Tolpuddle labourers and those people who previously stood up for workers’ rights.”
The journey, as well as the destination, are equally important in this pilgrimage: six labourers from Tolpuddle – four of them being Methodist – created a Friendly society in 1833 requesting fair wages, which resulted in their arrest, trial and transportation to Australia before they were pardoned.
The Revd Simon Topping, Superintendent Minister and Minister for Bath, Bathampton and Box Methodist Churches, commented, “Learning about that story through a pilgrimage is a great way to reflect together on what happened and on issues to do with social justice, economic justice and inequalities, struggles that we still face today to make the world a more equal and fairer place.”
Living Christianity in the Holy Land
18th – 30th January 2023
It is hard to distil so rich an experience as my recent 12-day visit to the Holy Land with the Methodist Liaison Office in a short article, but I will do my best.
I arrived on the evening of 18th January, exhausted but eager to see what lay before me. We comprised a diverse group of 12, with our three leaders; John, Angleena, and Samar. I had done little research on what I might expect to experience, having only booked the trip six weeks earlier and with Christmas in-between. How naïve I was; I knew little about the Israeli-Palestinian situation and was ill prepared for what I was to witness.
Our days were full and well planned. We visited holy sites, familiar to us all from our readings of the bible, but what made this trip more enriching than I could ever have hoped for, was the way in which the days were interwoven with voices from the margins. Those voices were the voices of the oppressed and those whose lives are under constant threat, because of who they are, and who they represent.
There were evenings that I would return to our guest house full of sorrow and heartache for the people I had met and the land in which they live. Staying in occupied territory adds poignancy to the context in which Jesus ministered. Each holy site we visited spoke of both the past and the present.
Many of the sites were hard for me to relate to; I’d grown up with images of the green hill far away, the farmyard stable, Jesus’ childhood home of basic stone structure set amid a bustling village; now I was faced with highly decorated churches (built upon those sites), and modern-day cities with Starbucks and McDonald’s.
The highlight for me occurred exactly halfway through the trip. It was the day we headed off to Galilee for our two day stay in Tiberius. On our journey there, we stopped off at Caesarea Philippi, a lush area near to the foot of Mount Hermon. Here I found peace amongst the springs of the river Jordan and the ruins of temples and worship sites. As we read from Mark, the story of Jesus’ identity revealed to his disciples, the gospel came to life. At the modern church of Magdena, so stunning in its setting and design, I found new meaning and connection with the women of the bible.
Our day’s end was perfect. As we sailed into the still, still waters of the Galilee, towards the setting sun and the Jordan hills, time melted away and I could have been there with Jesus, his disciples, and their fishing nets. That evening we were a happy crew, chatting and laughing, and at other times quiet and contemplative, as we soaked up the warmth of the day and were soothed by the gentle lapping of the water. As the sun went down, we broke into song and lifted our eyes to the hills. I was overwhelmed by a sense of joy and peace.
This was a challenging and emotionally demanding 12 days. There were times when I felt that I could take no more of the stories of oppression and cruelty, but through those stories we had witnessed faith that had moved mountains.
This short reflection comes nowhere near to doing justice to this trip. I appreciated the depth of knowledge of our leaders. Each question we threw at them (and we threw many), was answered with thought and sincerity. I have returned challenged and renewed in my understanding of Jesus’ ministry – as relevant today as it was 2,000 years ago. I leave the land behind, but I take home with me a faith that is recharged and strengthened.
Box Methodist Church, Northeast Somerset and Bath Circuit.
We have registered with the Warm Welcome campaign. Click here to find out more
‘Our new horse is called Tuck. We only got him recently, so still in training. We have 5 others, Caellyn, Saxon, Bertie, Baloo and Dolly. We only ride on a Monday but if you Google Saxon RDA (or click the links above) that will give you much more information. Our final session this year is on the 12th December when we will be having party games and even the horses have a little tinsel on them!
Many thanks for any donations you can give us’.
Thanks to the generosity of our church congregation and others, we have been able to make the following donations to local charities in 2022:
Our recent Ploughman’s supper & quiz, held to raise funds for the Save the Children Ukrainian fund, raised £530. Our thanks to everyone who came and made the evening a most enjoyable one!
Here’s the letter we received:
Thank you to everyone at Box Methodist Church for your donation of £530.00 raised from your quiz evening for our Ukraine Appeal. Imagine. One day you’re living an ordinary life – going to school, playing with your friends, coming home. Then, war breaks out and all that vanishes.
That’s what happened to Antin*, Nikolai* and Estas* (pictured). They had to leave their home in Ukraine and come to Romania, where they moved into a hostel – a converted school.
It was hard. Their mum, Darina*, says she was so worried she couldn’t sleep and didn’t want to eat.
Then things started to change. We gave Darina cash to buy food. Antin, Nikolai and Estas joined in games and activities organised by our team in Romania.
“It’s good here,” says Darina now. “The children sleep well. They have lots of toys here. We have everything we need.” We’re helping them find somewhere to live long term.
Thanks to the support of people like you, we’re giving many more children the help they need – and a chance of the future they deserve.
Head of Supporter and Team Operations
Julia’s house was one of the two charities the church supported in 2022. They provide practical and emotional support for families caring for a child with a life-limiting or life-threatening condition, providing frequent and regular support in their own homes, in the community or at their hospices in Corfe Mullen (Dorset) and Devizes (Wiltshire)
Margaret (our Treasurer, on the right in the photo) and Sybil were invited to an Open Day in Devizes to present a cheque for £325.00. They were given a tour of the house and garden . Much thought had been put into the design both inside and out…the CEO of Julia’s house had even crawled around on his hands and knees to see things from a child’s prospective!
The sensory room was particularly wonderful: even the floor had a “ magic” carpet which was actually a huge screen on the floor where children can for instance walk through autumn leaves, “ kicking” them as they go…or another screen could be a football pitch with a football that again the child can kick into the goal….as well as that amazing “carpet screen” were different musical sounds, and a room where they could just sit watching different colours flow around them which was very soothing. These rooms can also be used by siblings; the staff are very aware of the need to support the whole family.
One of the most expensive pieces of equipment was in the bedroom suite: a space age bath with lights and jets that can be used by all ages…what a treat!
The garden was also an amazing experience: everywhere was accessible and full of equipment, from a trampoline where even a child in a wheelchair can experience the fun, to a lovely large swing that a child can lie on etc etc. They’ve also created secluded areas tucked away so that parents or carers can sit and anjoy some quiet and peace.
Like all hospices, until very recently Julia’s House received no funding at all from the NHS. It now receives just 8% of the one million pounds a year it needs to provide this essential service. Please do your bit by raising the profile of this very worthwhile charity among your friends and family .. Thank You!