Changes at Vitalise

As we approach the summer at WPM, we will be going through a person of a little change! Exciting things are afoot for Nicola and Kate, our staff members, and the faces you see at prayers, on Sunday evenings and at chaplaincy are going to look a little different for the next few months…
As those of you who have been around for the last six month will know, Nicola is expecting a baby! This is enormously exciting news and we’re all very happy for her and her husband Andy as they get ready to welcome a little baby Turner into the world. It does mean, though, that Nicola will be heading off on maternity leave for from July 22nd, with plans to return in the new year, with the little one in tow. She won’t be disappearing completely from Vitalise life; she will, most likely, be around on the occasional Sunday (Vitalise is her and Andy’s church, after all!) and she is up for an occasional coffee. However, we have someone amazing lined up for her maternity cover so the Vitalise team leader role is in very safe hands – more on that person later!
It’s an exciting time for our other staff member, Kate too; Kate had been exploring a vocation to ordained ministry with Lichfield diocese and in June she learned that she had been recommended for training. She will be moving to Birmingham to attend theology college in September to start three years of training. In order to have time to sort herself out properly, however, she will be leaving at the beginning of August; her last day will be Sunday 5th August.
This begs the question: who will be taking over at WPM?
We are delighted to say that from September until the new year, Nicola’s role will be filled by Libby Leech who is, at present, Lichfield diocese’s 5 to 11s and Schools Enabler. We are lucky enough to be seconding her for a few months! Libby is already well known to some of us at WPM as she has been one of our volunteer chaplains for PERIOD OF TIME. She’s a lovely lady with a great sense of humour and we think she’s going to fit right in to life at Vitalise.
We know some in our community have been a little concerned about August, particularly the period between Kate leaving and Libby starting. We want to assure everyone that our Sunday night services will still be going on and that we’re continuing our chaplaincy work. Our chaplains will continue to be available every week at The Way Youth Zone and we’re running a Youth Alpha course at YMCA Badger Court over August, with help from Libby and Abbie, the new curate at St Peter’s Collegiate.
There will be no weekly prayers, Bible study or home group over the summer – Libby will start those back up again when she starts in September.
We’re incredibly grateful for all the offers of support we’ve been offered from our wider community, including local churches and local church leaders. Our plan is that for those three weeks in August, our Sunday nights will feature different ‘guest speakers,’ with individuals with links to our community coming to speak to us.
The plan for our August Sunday services looks like this:
Sunday 12th August: Vitalise will be led by Graham, who’s been a member of the Vitalise community for 3 years now, and Abbie, the aforementioned curate, who’ll be preaching.
Sunday 19th August and Sunday 26th August: Chris, the minister at Darlington Street, who pops in from time to time to lead communion, will be leading.
Sunday 2nd September: Libby starts!
Please pray for us as we step into this new chapter of life at Vitalise – for Nicola and Andy as they welcome a new addition to their family; for Kate as she starts at theology college; for Libby as she prepares to start as team leader; for all in our wider community who will be supporting us over the summer, and most importantly, for our community, that they would have courage and patience in what feel to some like a period of uncertainty and change.
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A hot tub and the Holy Spirit: our 2018 baptism service

Discipling new Christians is central to our mission at WPM so it is always a pleasure to see young adults reach a stage in their faith journey where they feel ready to make the public commitment of baptism. This Pentecost, we had the joy of baptising two members of our community – Chloe and Rob. We came to know them through our chaplaincy work at YMCA Badger Court and it has been great to get to know them, and to grow in faith alongside them.

As all our baptismal candidates are adults, they are also confirmed by our local Anglican bishop and received into Methodist membership; we are very proud of our ecumenical identity and had the pleasure of being joined for the service by the Wolverhampton and Shrewbury District Chair and the Bishop of Wolverhampton, both of whom are WPM trustees.

Left: Chloe and Rob give their testimonies before their baptism; centre: Nicola preaches on the promises we make at baptism; right: Rachel, local Methodist district chair, blesses the waters of our baptismal hot tub.

We were also joined by some of our prayer supporters and by some of the staff and residents of YMCA Badger Court, which was really lovely. We like to think of the WPM community as extending well beyond our Sunday evening congregation, and it was great to have some of the people we usually only see on weekdays join us for this very special service.

Left: Chris Collins, the minister at Darlington Street, receives Rob and Chloe into Methodist membership; right: Bishop Clive confirms Rob and Chloe.

Left: Rachel leads our intercessions, inviting us to pray for the things on the hearts of our community members; right: Bishop Clive presides at communion.

We are enormously grateful to everyone who help set up for the service, to everyone who brought cake, and to everyone who came to support Rob and Chloe as they made this commitment. Please continue to pray for them as they continue to explore what it means to follow Jesus!

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WPM weekend away 2018

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After all the excitement of Easter, we have just enjoyed another one of the highlights of WPM’s calendar – our annual weekend away to Cefn Lea in Wales. We are indebted to all who prayed for nice weather – we were blessed (for the most part) with sunshine and the absence of rain, which we all appreciated!

As always, our weekend away was a mix of prayer and worship; small group discipleship; exploring the beautiful Welsh countryside; the consumption of plentiful food, and many, many games of pool. Like last year, our small group discussion used a resource written to accompany Ken Costa’s book, Know Your Why; this year, we explored how our faith can shape our decision-making and how we think about courage and perseverance.

Our schedule left plenty of time for more relaxing activities, however, and lots of us enjoyed the delights of Cefn Lea’s hilltop crazy golf range, as well as some fierce Scrabble sessions and the basketball facilities in the centre’s sports hall.

On Saturday night, we held our evening prayer service by campfire, with Andy leading us in acoustic worship – followed, of course, by s’mores and toasted marshmallows!

On the Sunday morning, we celebrated the 21st birthday of Rob, one of our community members, with tea and cake, before enjoying our Sunday lunch and heading back to Wolverhampton.

We’re really grateful to everyone who came and joined in with all our activities, everyone who provided lifts and to everyone who held us in their prayers while we were away. We’re back to normal now, refreshed and getting ready for our next big event: our baptism, confirmation and membership service, coming up on Pentecost!

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He is Risen! Easter 2018

Here at Vitalise, we are just settling back into our regular pattern of prayer, worship and chaplaincy after a hectic but enormously fun Holy Week and Easter. Our staff, volunteers and church members juggled all our regular work with one-off chaplaincy sessions, organising our interactive Palm Sunday service, building a prayer space at one of the city centre churches, and some top notch cake baking!

Palm Sunday Storytelling

How do you retell the one of the most well-known stories in the world? How do you make the story of the Passion speak to both a person who has heard the story all their life and to someone who is hearing it for the first time? This was our challenge this year. We love the Palm Sunday tradition of retelling the story of Holy Week in its entirety and wanted to create a service where both new and more mature Christians could encounter Jesus in the story of his betrayal, arrest and crucifixion.

Some images from our Palm Sunday service.

Storytelling is something we are really passionate about at Vitalise, so we decided to set up different interactions stations exploring different parts of the Passion narrative. As Nicola and Kate took turns to retell different parts of the story, we moved between them. We shared bread together as we heard about the last supper; we prayed for God to help us in our own ‘Gethsemane’ moments, and we even had a go at tearing the curtain of the Temple ourselves.

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The Garden – A Gethsemane Themed Prayer Space

Everyone who knows WPM knows we love a big creative project! This Easter, St Peter’s Collegiate Church very kindly agreed to host our latest one – an enclosed prayer space (alternately referred to as a prayer station, tent and pod) designed to help explore the themes of isolation and longing articulated in the account of Christ’s experience in the garden of Gethsemane.

The frame for the prayer space took shape thanks to Nicola’s excellent DIY skills!

So much of our meditation on the Passion – particularly in Holy Week – occurs in large spaces (like church buildings) and with others, at the likes of Good Friday vigils and Maundy Thursday services. We wanted to create a space where people could explore the themes of loneliness in this story in a more enclosed environment.

The completed prayer space.

Poetry and Bible passages were hung from the frame of the prayer space, and users of the prayer space were invited to respond to them in their meditation time, if they so wished.

Easter Sunday

After all this meditation on the cross came the light of Easter day and the WPM Easter service. Nicola preached on the message of the empty tomb, of the conquering of sin and death, with Kate’s prayers focusing on the personal reconciliation made possible by Christ’s death and resurrection. Of course no Vitalise celebration would be complete without mountains of cake, which the community generously supplied (and consumed)!

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Our decorated Easter Sunday cross.

The WPM staff and volunteers enjoyed a well-deserved break last week but are now back in action – after all, it’s now only 3 weeks until our annual weekend away to Wales!

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Learning from others: Interfaith at Vitalise

As a church located in one of the most culturally diverse parts of the UK, it would be extremely remiss of us not to try to engage with individuals and local communities of other faiths – we’re called to love all, to serve the whole city of Wolverhampton.

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Photo credit: Express and Star website.

To that end, we have been running – and participating in – a handful of events designed to increase our understanding of the different religions we see around us, and reflect on how what we learn can help us grow in our own faiths.

We were fortunate enough to have Interfaith Enabler and advisor to the Bishops of Wolverhampton and Lichfield, Ray Gaston, come to speak to us about Christian discipleship in a multifaith world. We hugely enjoyed his talk and it sparked a lot of interest in learning more about the faiths of others. So the following month, in November 2017, Kate put together an interactive session for Vitalise (and mini-version for our chaplaincy partners), to mark Interfaith Week. It was titled Faith and Feasting, and was designed to help people explore how different religions think about food and the practices of communal feasting and fasting.

Kosher food quiz and some Indian sweets from our Faith and Feasting session.

Both of these sessions were linked by a focus on equipping individuals for better engaging in interreligious and intercultural interaction in our daily lives. Our growth as disciples is, in large part, presaged on us witnessing to our faith in the world around us – a world where the presence of faiths others than our own is frequently a topic of discussion, at home and in the media. Knowledge of the beliefs, practices and worldviews of others is therefore vital for any conversation we might what to have about the place of faith – be it ours or anyone else’s – in our homes, colleges and workplaces today.

Wolverhampton’s religious landscape in the snow. Left: the Buddhist Vihara on Upper Zoar Street; right: the Shree Krishan Mandir on the Penn Road.

January 2018 saw a small group from Vitalise join a day-long workshop run by Ray Gaston which involved visiting several places of worship in the Pennfields area of Wolverhampton, followed by an afternoon of reflection which included group discussion of Biblical passages. We were delighted to be welcomed into the Shree Krishan Mandir and the Tayyaba Masjid (no pictures of its exterior from the trip – it was too cold!) who showed us enormously gracious hospitality. Leaders from both these places of worship spoke to us about their faiths and facilitated very informative question and answer sessions. We then spent the afternoon at St Chad and St Mark’s church in Pennfields reflecting on our experiences of the morning and reading and discussing passages from the Bible in the light of these encounters. You can be sure there were some disagreements within the groups we were a part of, but it was a very fruitful exercise for us all!

It is exciting to see that there is a strong desire among many people at WPM to further explore what reflection on interaction with people of other religions can teach us about our faith – so watch this space!

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‘Clothing ourselves in Christ’ at the start of 2018

New Year has all of us thinking about fresh starts and the excitement of what the next twelve months might have in store for us. For a few of the members of the Vitalise community, the beginning of 2018 has an added element of excitement – they’re beginning their preparation for baptism, confirmation and admission into Methodist membership!

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It’s always immensely exciting whenever any of the young people we work with decide to mark their decision to follow Jesus in this way. Like any church, we take great joy in seeing young people we’ve built relationships with wanting to mark their commitment¬† to our faith and our community in such a public way.

The individuals preparing for this next step in their faith journeys are, like all who go through baptism, confirmation and Methodist membership admission with us, preparing by engaging with a ten-week series on Christian faith. However, because we take our mission to walk alongside these young people really seriously, we are undertaking this course together as a whole community, as part of our regular Sunday evening worship.

With topics ranging from breaking bread to resisting evil, and from fellowship to prayer, it’s a great opportunity for all of us to rethink our understanding of our faith and refresh parts of our relationship with God.

Prayer stations on the theme of Micah 6:8 during our session on getting to grips with the Bible.

A service of ‘baptism, confirmation and admission into Methodist membership’ might sound like a bit of a mouthful! However, as an ecumenical project supported by both the Wolverhampton and Shrewsbury District and Diocese of Lichfield, we feel it’s really important that our community members get to take ownership of both the traditions which have contributed to the establishment of this particular church.

We have no date as of yet for the service itself but don’t worry, we will keep everyone informed – keep your eye on our social media in the coming month or so!

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A Very Vitalise Christmas

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Those of you who are well acquainted with the folk at Vitalise will be unsurprised to learn that Christmas is one of our favourite times in the Christian year. We love the carols and opportunities for drama and storytelling that come with the season, and this year was no different.

Our Christmas service was a much more chilled-out affair this year, following last year’s large-scale nativity production, comprised of a series of monologues from key characters in the Christmas story. There were, however, plenty of mince pies and yule log, and some high quality carolling.

Our chaplains enjoyed a busy Christmas season this year. They ran a Christmas craft extravangza evening for the residents of YMCA Badger Court making hot chocolate, decorating gingerbread and making Christmas cards, all while putting the world to rights on topics ranging from grief at Christmas to the intricacy of the Hollyoak’s Christmas storyline.

We were also enormously grateful to receive a generous donation of Lush cosmetics from a partner at a local Wolverhampton church, which we had great fun distributing to the folk who use our chaplaincy services, as well as the young people who attend the Vitalise Sunday services. Christmas truly came early to those of us who enjoy bath bombs!

All of us at WPM wish you a very happy new year, and we can’t wait to see how 2018 shapes up for us!

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