Behind the Headlines
What’s happening at the Methodist Central Hall Westminster?
Headway members who read the Methodist Recorder, or even the Times or the Daily Telegraph, will realise that in the past year there has been both controversy and activity surrounding the Methodist Central Hall Westminster (MCHW). Controversy because of the obtaining of an alcohol licence by the trading company here, and because of bookings taken from groups such as ‘Forward in Faith’ – with whom not all Methodists agree. Activity as a huge £8 million refurbishment programme has been finished. As Superintendent Minister I sit in the hot seat at the heart of all this!
But behind the headlines there are many changes and a great deal going on at MCHW, and I am grateful to the Editor for inviting me to give just a snapshot of what God is doing here.
MCHW on a Sunday morning sees a congregation of 200-275 adults from across London and across the world. About half the congregation are of West African origin, worship is what we might describe as ‘relaxed traditional’, and the services usually last about an hour and a half, depending upon what is happening. In the evening we meet in our Chapel downstairs, and the smaller congregation of 40-60 gives a different dynamic, with both a healing service and an informal service as regular monthly features. The membership has increased by about a 100 in the past five years, and now stands at 340. So what else goes on?
The healing ministry is a major focus, and Malcolm White (half-time) heads up this work. A former Cliff College tutor, Methodist School Chaplain and then comprehensive school headmaster, Malcolm was called to specialise in this ministry some ten years ago. We have two healing services a month, and a huge number of people come to see him for personal healing prayer. He also leads meetings and retreats on the healing theme, and shares with me in overall leadership at MCHW. This is a powerful and effective ministry for which we thank God.
Fellow Headway member Tony Miles divides his time between work at the Hall and chaplaincy to independent radio stations in London and Essex. He is also well known for his Saturday morning show on Premier Christian Radio. He has developed the web-site here and we now have tens of thousands of hits each month – you can see the life of the church and read the sermons on www.methodist-central-hall.org.uk. Sister Jane Middleton is also half-time, and fulfils the invaluable diaconal role of caring for a community scattered across London. She travels vast distances to show the love and care of the Church, and also runs our Guild, an afternoon fellowship for older people. Our new member of staff is Jonathan Green who is our Young Adult Pastor. Coming to us from a Vineyard Church was a bit of a culture shock for him, but Jon is married to Felicity who is a Methodist Local Preacher so she explains where we are coming from – as Felicity Baguley she was the Headway Prayer Secretary for several years. Jon’s main task is to plant an alternative congregation for young adults. ‘Sanctuary’ meets here every other Thursday (see www.sanctuary-westminster.org). He also looks after fellowship groups and mid-week worship.
My own role is to work with the Leadership Team in giving direction to the work. Unlike my predecessors I do not do all the preaching; we share it out, but I still do the most. I look after our links with Parliament and the Connexion, and am the one rolled out to greet distinguished visitors or to represent Methodism at the Abbey and the Cathedral. I am Chair of the Company that runs the Conference Centre; we aim to turn over about £5 million a year, the profits being ploughed back into the maintenance of the Hall and the mission of the church. One of the objects I have been working towards is to make the building more obviously a Christian one, and to this end we now have Christian art and posters around the pace, leaflets I have written – ‘What Christians Believe’ ,’Knowing God’s Guidance’ - on the stands, and we give away large numbers of free Bible notes. Many visitors come for a tour of the building (especially famous as being where the first Assembly of the United Nations was held), and we trust that by our warm welcome they have a sense of the love of God. We now host the London headquarters of Christian Aid, the parliamentary offices of World Vision and will be the base office for the new London District as from 1st September 2006.
So there is much to thank God for, and I am especially thankful personally for the good folk who receive my prayer letter and support me day by day and week by week in prayer – without that backing I could not attempt such an enormous task as being the Superintendent here. I have just been re-invited until 2011 – what do I hope for in the next five years? I have a vision that if God really moved in MCHW the effect would be something that would not just be a blessing for the local church but also for the whole of Methodism. We have so many visitors from Methodist Churches across Britain: if we were on fire they too might catch the flame! So if you are coming to London do join us for worship at 11.00am or 6.30pm on a Sunday. We will try to make you welcome. If you have a computer take a look at the website as to how to contact us, and also see what we are getting up to. Above all please pray for us, for this a strategic church for Methodism, and for our longing as a staff team, that many may come to faith or to deeper faith through their links here.