Local preachers

One of John Wesley’s most striking innovations was to institute an order of lay preachers, both men and women, within the Methodist Church.

Today, seven out of ten Methodist services (apart from the Eucharist) are led by local preachers (LPs) who are thoroughly trained and tested before being fully accredited to a circuit.  A dozen members of Chilwell Road Methodist Church are active local preachers in the Nottingham Trent Valley Circuit, out of a total of about 60. They come from very different backgrounds and have widely varied experiences of the world to offer to the church.  Their stories are given below.

Each year the second Sunday in October is celebrated as Local Preachers Sunday in the circuit. On that day, services are normally led by LPs and there is an appeal for support for the Leaders of Worship and Local Preachers’ Trust [LWPT], a charity that supports retired local preachers.

Ian Wragg (1959)

I was called to be a local preacher as a sixth-former. While my sister went into the full-time ministry of the church, I put my energies into teaching Religious Education. After more than 50 years as a local preacher I have never regretted it!

My preaching has been enriched by the wonderful people I have met over the years, by the experience of living and working in Nigeria, by long involvement in worship with other denominations, by my work in education, and by inter-faith encounter and dialogue.

It is still a privilege to lead people in worship, even if some members of the congregation seem to judge the worth of a service by its ‘entertainment value’!!

I am stimulated in my preparation by theologians who address the challenge of faith in a post-Christian society, and I long to speak to those who have turned their backs on organised religion, or are hanging on to membership of a church by their fingertips.

Ivor Moon (1962)

My parents were active in the Methodist Church in the large village where I was born in South Derbyshire, and it was here that I was nurtured in the Christian religion.

As a church steward, my father had the responsibility of providing hospitality for preachers who travelled long distances to take services, and their influence upon me persuaded me to consider local preaching.

I first took the Sunday School teachers’ course and then, over 28 years, many extra-mural courses in theology and allied subjects provided by Nottingham University and the Workers Educational Association.

I was accepted as a fully accredited local preacher after 4 years of study, but it still continues. Preaching is a task of immense moment, totally demanding of those who undertake it, and crucially important to those who hear it. The ministry of the word is perhaps the greatest need of the church today.

Peter Bush (1964)

My parents were active members of Chilwell Road, and after returning from a Methodist boarding-school, I became involved in the young people’s activities in the church.

Following the encouragement of Rev. Raymond Stopard, I applied to become a local preacher in 1962, finishing my course at Cliff College where I studied Evangelism.

I worked for the Church Army for 35 years, in parish work and, for the last 12 years, as a Prison Chaplain in Feltham Young Offender establishment in London. On my retirement I returned to Beeston and resumed my local preaching and involvement with Chilwell Road. I am a member of Headway, which equips evangelical Methodists in daily living.

In my ministry I have sought to keep the Bible central to my preaching and tried to connect my preaching with evangelism. In recent years I have sought to show people how the Holy Spirit is or can be working in people lives. I also try to challenge people in their prayer lives to deepen their trust in God.

Stephen Travis (1967)

I’ve been a local preacher since 1967, having done my apprenticeship in small village chapels in Yorkshire and Cambridgeshire.

My other life has been as a teacher of New Testament at St John’s College, Bramcote. Now retired from my job I continue my long-term enthusiasm for helping people engage thoughtfully with the Bible’s message and to apply it to their own lives.  To this end I have written several books, most recently the textbook “Exploring the New Testament: Letters and Revelation” and a booklet on “The Galilee that Jesus Knew”. I also contributed to “Foundations21″, the innovative and much-praised web-based course on Christian discipleship from Bible Reading Fellowship.

As a preacher, I want my contribution to enable people to learn more about their faith and gain confidence in sharing it with others. I love Paul’s words about ‘treasure in clay jars’ (2 Corinthians 4:7). Clay jars, yes – but what treasure!

John Patrick (1969)

My father was an active LP and I was brought up in a lively church in Birmingham which produced several ministers (including Stuart Burgess) and LPs.

I first went “on note” in Nigeria when I was a junior doctor in a mission hospital, and I went on full plan three years later when I was a university lecturer in Dundee. I was much influenced by liberal extra-mural classes in theology, and I have continued to read authors like Shelby Spong and Marcus Borg who espouse a coherent non-literal view of the bible.

My appreciation of high-churchmanship stems from chapel attendance at school and college, singing masses and requiems in choirs, and from belonging for 12 years to Catholic and Anglican churches in Pakistan and Malawi where there was no Methodist church.

My aim is to convey the insights of rigorous liberal thinking from the universities to the pews, and to encourage the best in worship.

Colin Firbank (1970)

As a child I attended Central Methodist Church in Bishop Auckland, progressing through Sunday School and Youth Fellowship. One of the regular visiting preachers was Dr. Charles Kingsley Barrett.

The large Reading University Methodist Society introduced me to stimulating weekly groups, one led by David Cowling.  On starting work in St. Helens, I attended Eccleston Methodist Church and helped with the Youth Club.  I went “on note” there, and was accepted onto full plan in 1970.

Since moving to Beeston in 1974 and attending Chilwell Road Methodist Church I have appreciated the connections with Christians from around the world, both in welcoming them to Beeston, supporting them in their home countries and learning from them. While trying to help people worship God in a meaningful way, my preaching will tend to challenge them to find practical ways of serving God in the local community and the world.

Ray Heasley (1974)

The son of a Local Preacher, I grew up in Belfast and became accredited there in 1974, in the Agnes Street church, which is no longer there. (I believe mine was the last trial sermon there, before the building burnt down!)

Important influences on my faith and preaching include my family, several ministers who went on to become Methodist Presidents in either Ireland or Great Britain, and my experience at university where I rediscovered the written and living word.

I have worked in Further Education, as a lecturer and manager, for about 35 years. I have always been keen to encourage churches to work together, and was a founder member of the Beeston Ecumenical Group, which became Churches Together in Beeston and Chilwell. I have also worked at, and retain links with, the inter-denominational Corrymeela Community in Northern Ireland.

Glenda Taylor (1983)

My father was a minister who preached in the free churches in and around Swansea ; as a child I was sent to a church near where we lived, which happened to be Methodist.

In 1975 I came to  Nottingham  University where I had the opportunity to work with the Methodist Chaplain (Stuart Burgess) and received a note to preach in 1979. I was extremely fortunate to study the Old Testament with the late Harry McKeating, the New Testament with James Dunn and the Groundwork of Theology with Stephen Travis.

From 2004 to 2006 I took a short break from Local Preaching in order to complete a Diploma in Careers Education. My aim in preaching is to draw relevant advice from the scriptures about how we should live today. I particularly enjoy leading all-age worship.

Martin Weir (1987)

Although I was accredited in 1987, in truth I had been helping to lead services since I joined the Youth Fellowship group at St James Methodist Church in Woolton, Liverpool where I grew up.

After studying at Nottingham University, I have worked in the banking industry for the past 31 years, and have found the experience of the last few years in particular to be challenging in terms of work and faith.

As a local preacher, I am aware of the tremendous privilege and responsibility of leading God’s people in worship. I enjoy exploring different ways of helping congregations to worship God, for example through the appropriate use of technology. In preaching, I consider that it is important to relate the gospel message to daily living because, as Christians, we are encouraged to reflect God’s love for each of us to the world around us, every day.

Malcolm Wilson (1994)

My family were Methodists and I attended Sunday School and services in Netherfield until the age of 18. I did not return to church till 27 years later when I committed my life to Christ at a Rally at which Dr Donald English preached on being a disciple of Jesus.

Already I had been invited by some friends to a bible-study, and this sermon seemed to put my thoughts of God into place. I felt that God loved an ordinary soul like me and wants each one of us to love him too.

Within the church I have found true worship and fellowship: that is a wonderful thing to have in your life. As a local preacher I see my role in helping people to bring their lives to God through worship and prayer, and in preaching relevant biblical truths of the message of Jesus Christ. In my daily life too I hope that I might sometimes succeed in showing the love of Jesus to those around me.

Val Sellars (2001)

I have been a Methodist all my life, but had never considered preaching until it was suggested by a minister friend when he heard me speak at an open air service. I consider it a great privilege to be ‘one of Mr Wesley’s preachers’, and follow a calling which so amply rewards all the hard work involved in preparation.

My aim is to enable the whole church family to worship, using music and prayer from a variety of traditions. I believe it is important to see God’s presence in our whole lives, 24/7, and so may include in my services secular resources as well as sacred. I encourage as much participation as possible from people in the congregation.

Particular concerns are the contribution of the whole body of Christ to the life of the church and the world; the World Church; justice issues; the environment; the use of music in worship; and the presentation of the good news in ways which can be easily understood without being simplistic.

In my own spiritual life I am challenged and inspired by the work of Dr Margaret Barker on Templeand Creation Theologies. I also feel an affinity for Celtic Christianity with its deep roots in the natural world and its relation to the spirituality of the everyday, and for its expression today by the Iona Community. I was fortunate to visit Iona a number of years ago, and a return for an extended period of volunteering remains a cherished aim.

Janet Patrick (2006)

My father was a local preacher, and from childhood I felt part of the World Church but I wanted to be ‘a doer of the word’ rather than a preacher. I have been greatly influenced by 17 years spent living in poor countries.

My ecumenism came through worshipping with Catholic Franciscans in Pakistan and Anglicans in Malawi. My call to preaching came through seeing the need for women preachers in Blantyre Cathedral, and being drawn more to worship as I grew older. I will try to help congregations towards a sense of the presence of God and with a passion to bring in God’s kingdom on earth. I want both to encourage and to stir people up: the uncomfortable gospel which is ‘Good News to the Poor’ will not let me go.  It is such an honour to become one of ‘Mr Wesley’s preachers’.