North Yorkshire Dales Methodist Circuit
Report to Spring Synod 2021
For the second year running the Summer brought change for the Circuit as folks said their farewells to Revd Les Nevin and wished him and his wife Norma a wonderful and well-deserved retirement. However, with the impact of COVID-19 the farewell Circuit Service was online, and Les was sadly denied the opportunities of savouring and celebrating all his 'lasts' which had already occurred unmarked. Nevertheless, congregation members found ways of communicating their deep appreciation of both Les and Norma's ministry. A few short weeks later, the Circuit were delighted to welcome Revd Julia Reid, a first year Probationer, into their midst, doing everything possible within the restrictions to ensure that her transition was smooth. Julia's welcome service was also online and was a truly joyous occasion, and Julia is proving to be a real asset to the Circuit.
Alongside every Circuit in the District, worship has changed dramatically because of the ongoing restrictions. The Circuit provides weekly YouTube reflections, alongside Zoom worship and printed worship resources for those without access to the internet. Between lockdowns not all Chapels were able to fulfil the risk assessment criteria for opening and therefore 4 have not opened their premises for worship for 12 months. Barden Church Council took the decision in July 2020 to ask permission to cease to worship, leaving a total of 12 church buildings. Worship with schools has continued mainly using videos, but worship within residential homes has not been possible. The Circuit website, YouTube Channel and Facebook page has been utilised creatively to enable a variety of worship opportunities and this is an ongoing exploration.
Learning and Caring
Rachel Pinkney, the Circuit Schools and Families worker has needed to be extremely creative to find ways of continuing her work and has maintained excellent links with both Schools and Families in the Circuit. The Circuit is also delighted that Rachel was a successful candidate for Presbyteral Ministry and looks to support her in her training alongside her role.
Pastoral care has been a highlight of Lockdown bringing people together over the telephone and internet. The Circuit has consistently ensured that everyone is kept informed through regular mailings and the largest feedback has been the genuine appreciation of feeling loved and cared for through the various means of contact. Online Lent studies and drop-ins have also been offered and participated in, alongside the wealth of District and Connexional learning opportunities.
King's Club, the week-long, August holiday club run by the Circuit alongside our ecumenical brothers and sisters, reaching out to children and young people across the Dales needed to be delivered in a vastly different way this year. Not wanting to cancel it entirely, Rachel Pinkney was instrumental in organising a largely postal version with some online resources and a small team ensured that this was delivered safely over the week. Take up was down by approximately 50% on the previous year's figures of 55 children aged 6-10 years and 16 young people aged 11+ but still represents a significant outreach. Plans are already underway for King's Club 2021 which again will not be able to be in person with the team exploring the option of high-quality family 'gift boxes' designed around a biblical theme.
Leyburn saw the completion of their refurbished community hall, just managing a community 'thank you' concert and afternoon tea before the first Lockdown. The Circuit is grateful for the District's support and generosity.
The Circuit is currently on a journey focusing on restructuring for mission. This began before the first Lockdown and COVID-19 has brought to focus some challenging issues about how the Circuit can continue to serve the communities of the North Yorkshire Dales and be sustainable long-term. It was with deep sadness and acceptance that the mission aims of converting closed chapel buildings into local affordable housing has not been possible. The Circuit is now in the process of selling 5 Chapel buildings to use the proceeds to resource the future mission of the circuit.