Hanham Mount is where Wesley preached to the Miners of Kingswood taking over from his friend George Whitefield.
Whitefield had a successful ministry happening preaching to the miners of Kingswood, who were considered the toughest and most dangerous group around Bristol, yet Whitefield got a job in America and wanted to ensure that his miners continued to hear the good news of Jesus, and talked his friend John Wesley into continuing his work. Wesley was reticent believing that the ‘right place’ for sermons was in Church not on a hillside, until he remembered that Jesus himself preached the sermon on the mount. Wesley preached to 16’000 miners and there was an anointing on his words and many responding to the Gospel message with ‘white-tears’ cutting through the rivets of soot on their faces as people turned to Christ.
From here Wesley preached all over the U.K travelling on horse-back the same distance as from earth to the moon (he must have been very saddle sore!)
Hanham Mount has been for me what the Celtic Christians would call a “thin-space” somewhere where heaven feels more accessible, I used to go up there on days when everything felt really tough and cry out to God, I discovered a prayer in Habakkuk that I used to pray there which was “Lord, I have heard of your fame, I stand in awe of your deeds, renew them in our day, and Lord in your wrath remember mercy! On one occasion a group of us were praying up there and some tourists came to take photos, one of these was a lady called “Mercy” who (unlike her friends) was worried about interrupting our prayer time and urged us “keep on praying, keep on praying!” My friend Mark a veteran of the Christian scene in Kingswood said: “I think that was a prophetic word… ‘Mercy calls us to keep on praying!’”
It was at Hanham Mount that my ministry in Kingswood ended as after my last service a few of us went us to Hanham Mount to share communion together and to pray for the city.
The Mount itself is a bit of an unseen treasure, a Methodist world heritage site, but many people in Kingswood do not know where it is, or what happened there. Indeed, many Christians in the city do no know of its existence and have never been there (although ironically some people will travel across the world to come here!).
At the top of the Mount there are several inscriptions one says a quote of Wesley “all the world is my parish” -as he was thrown out of many Churches for preaching the Gospel, the Bishop of London said he “did not like enthusiasm” and the Bishop of Bristol described the manifestations of the Holy Spirit convicting people of sin and bringing to repentance as a “horrid thing”!
The words “all the world is my parish” chimed with me in a new way, as since leaving Kingswood I have been trying to explore where God is calling me and also trying to get re-licenced with the Church of England locally which has be painful and problematic. At the moment I have no Anglican Parish to properly call home and feel a bit rejected and unwanted in the Church I have called home for my Christian life, but knowing too that “the one who calls you is faithful” and that I can trust him with my future.
Wesley also said: “Church or no Church I must preach the Gospel” and I wonder too often our starting (and finishing) point is the Church rather than the Gospel message, as when we start with God’s story of salvation and follow where he is at work in his world Church will born, but when we start with “Church” -or what we have called Church- then we might never actually preaching the Gospel.
Another inscription on Hanham Mount is a verse “blessed are the feet of him who brings good news”, slowly as I waited people from various parts and times of my life in Bristol (and some people I had never met as well) came and joined us on the mount, and my friend Wes began to play his guitar, and there was a beautiful sense of God being with us. One of my friends brought a small child with her who she’s fostering who was running around everywhere, and I was reminded of my time at Dan’s Church earlier that day. I was reminded of a quote which said: “Go with the confidence of a four year old in a batman T’shirt” and looked and something blessed me about how kids just embrace life, people they don’t know and are always exploring new things, climbing things and are completely un-phased about danger. Perhaps there is something of this in Christ’s command to become like little children?
I looked around at this group and was going to preach my sermon about: “if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves, confess their sins and seek my face, then I will hear from heaven and heal their land” -but for some reason that talk didn’t feel right, so I prayed “Lord, help me know what to say”, because although I’d seen lots of amazing stuff, I was also exhausted and was worried about babbling incoherently -also I was still chewing over what I was thinking about stuff too! Two thoughts spontaneously lit up in my mind, one was a quote from Shane Claiborne who asked: “are you a believer (passive but full of head-knowledge) or a follower (someone who is actively pursuing Christ)?” the second was the vision of the School of Mission: “Our aim is to see every Christian in the UK comfortable and confident in sharing their faith in Christ Jesus, through deed and word, with wisdom and sensitivity under the guidance and leadership of the Holy Spirit”.
Following my talk, my friend Mark let us in prayer for Kingswood, Bristol and the nation, and he led us all to the stone with the verse inscribed about “blessed are the feet of those who bring good news” and as a response to God’s call, if we wanted to, to put our foot/feet on this stone, as a pledge to God of our desire to be bringers of good news.
My friend Paul had a prophetic word he shared about kids at school do “show and tell” where they bring something in and tell the class about it, and that this was a call for the Church to live out our faith in deeds and actions but also to speak about our faith too. Slightly embarrassingly I was reminded of the kids song which says: “Shine from the inside out, that the world will know you live in me…” with the chorus “know me, love me, fill me, send me…” which seemed a suitable blessing to send them off with.