Church Council meeting

The Council, comprising Managing Trustees with other church Members also participating, took place by Zoom on Thursday afternoon.  We are asked to note the following:

Appointments

(1)  Acting on behalf of the “not-held” General Church Meeting, the present Church Stewards were continued in office.

(2)  The Treasurer (David) repeated his wish to demit office when this becomes possible, but agreed to continue in the current circumstances (identification of a successor is still wished).  He is working on a “job spec”.

(3)  Following the resignation of the Finance & Property Convener (Keith), a successor is required; meantime, the Church Council will take necessary decisions and the current Finance & Property persons will maintain their usual contact and deal with any necessary matters.

Worship

  • It was agreed that the lengthy list of requirements for the opening of premises for public worship contained conditions that might be difficult to implement in our premises, certainly in the foreseeable future.
  • It is not envisaged that Methodist Churches in Scotland will re-open before September.
  • Government advice encourages continuing provision of online or broadcast worship for those unable to attend church premises; we noted that online worship had become more familiar to many during lockdown.
  • The Chair of District has decided to cease his online services after July. We need to let people know the options for online and broadcast worship in August.
  • The Rev Nik Wooller, as acting Superintendent, proposes to provide an online Circuit Act of Worship on Sundays from 6th September.

Finance & Property – lengthy conversation took place on the state of our finances and of the premises; the pandemic has altered the picture in many respects and there remains considerable uncertainty in many aspects about future possibilities.

Pastoral – the Council remembered in prayer those who have died since its last meeting: May F, Arthur G and Arthur L.  Funerals had takeng place under restriction, so church friends could not attend; some later commemoration may be appropriate, and Nik Wooller suggested the possibility of arranging a Circuit Service of Thanksgiving and Remembrance possibly round All Saints Day (1st November).

Next meetings – no fixed arrangement was made; the Church Stewards & Minister will convene the Council if / when necessary but no later than the second half of September.

New Connexion magazine

Magazine cover - Singing a new song - with a 'closed' sign on a gateThe latest issue of Connexion is entitled Singing a New Song.

Expressing solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement, issue 19 also demonstrates how local churches globally have prevailed during the COVID-19 lockdown constraints to sing a new song (Psalm 137), picked up by the new President’s and Vice-President’s Wesley-inspired theme for their time in office.

Methodist Conference 25 June to 2 July 2020

The Methodist Conference will be held online from 25th June to 2nd July 2020.

  • The presbyteral sessions will be held on Thursday and Friday, with the representative sessions from Saturday to Tuesday.
  • Conference sessions will be streamed live – see https://www.methodist.org.uk/about-us/the-methodist-conference/conference-2020/ – where more details are promised in due course.
  • You can also follow links from there to the conference timetable and agenda papers.
  • There is a variety of fringe events – methods of joining in/registering vary. Click on the relevant links, preferably before the start of the event!

Slavery, statues, and choices

Genesis 21:8-21; Matthew 10:24-39

Should we pull down the statue of Christ the redeemer in Rio because Jesus doesn’t condemn slavery?

There is a lot in our bible passages but the references to slavery seem to particularly stand out in light of recent events. The passages don’t make for comfortable reading. The casual way in which Hagar and her child are disposed of and the reference by Jesus in the gospel about the slave not being above the master is clearly not a refutation of slavery. Indeed, such passages have been used over the centuries to justify slavery by those claiming to be part of the Christian community. If nothing else, this reminds us of our capacity as human beings to deceive and justify ourselves.

Statues are less important than what they represent and the statue of Edward Colston, pulled down in Bristol, represented something vile, the buying and selling of people for huge profit. It should have been pulled down years ago as many people in Bristol had long campaigned for. The world changes and we adapt as we go along. At a different level the people of Glasgow learnt how to deal with pompous statues years back by simply placing a road cone on the Duke of Wellington. Was this an act of vandalism or perhaps something that has transformed the way people look at things? Such transformations are to be welcomed. And to be clear it would be foolish, an act of huge vandalism and a waste of money to pull down the statue of Christ the redeemer (even if it is questionable whether Jesus would have ever wanted such a thing).

For those with eyes to see and ears to hear it is obvious from the gospels where Jesus stood in the context of his time. He stands alongside those who are on the outside, who are judged and oppressed by those with power and control. And just as Jesus didn’t challenge the system of slavery of his day, nor does he set out to Rome to challenge the political authority there. In the gospel of Matthew we see Jesus among his own – ‘the lost sheep of Israel’, challenging and asking questions.

Jesus is, as the hymn has it, ‘working his purpose out’. Here we see him in uncompromising mood. He is making it abundantly clear that all have to make a basic choice. A choice that shapes everything else in life. A choice Jesus makes which costs him dear. What is the lens through which we will look? Family, life, relationships, the world are all viewed through are basic beliefs and understandings. What are the foundations on which we base our decisions, our choices? Jesus urges us to choose positively.

Jesus also makes it clear this is not going to be easy. It will be divisive standing up to authority and power. Jesus not only says this in the passage but shows in his ministry, and pays for it with his life. Our choices really matter! In this context today we say Black lives matter, climate change matters, the injustice of systems that treat others as less important matters and are a focus for the church going forward.

As we look at the next steps, what it means to be Methodists, to be church, are we rooting gospel values at the heart of who we are and what we do. Like me, if you don’t know your Bible off by heart, we have to keep going back to it, checking, listening to one another and God (praying) and working our purpose out.

The Methodist Conference meeting via Zoom beginning next week is helping Methodists to connect and to reflect on this together, asking questions of ourselves, one another and God and urging us to act. Jesus didn’t overthrow the system of slavery, or the Roman occupation but did turn the world upside down through love and service. And began something which has far outlasted those systems of his time and continues to grow in the lives of millions of disciples in the world.

There is much to challenge us, much that we get wrong, but I am encouraged by God’s response to Hagar. Despite petty jealousy, human frailty, getting it wrong, giving up hope, God somehow works through this and redeems the situation, redeems life. New understanding and new life come. I am choosing to be encouraged by this and I hope you will also.

Peace be with you.

Much love, Nick

Call to Prayer 21st June 2020

Prayer @ 7pm – Version for printing

We live in challenging times. In truth, the challenge of these times is one that continues. However, the nature of that challenge has changed. In this present moment, we reflect on where we are now and this allows us to begin to try to understand the past months. Equally, we have the opportunity to anticipate what is to come.

In the Letter to the Romans (6: 1-11), the Apostle Paul reflects on the foundation of the Christian life which is our sharing in the life, death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. As a consequence, the life we live now is one shaped by the present reality of sharing in the life of Christ. As we journey together in the gradual exit from Lockdown, we do so in the sure knowledge that we share in the life of the Risen Christ.

We pray:

Faithful God, we thank you
That you are present with us now
As we share in the life of the Risen Christ.
Continue to be present with us we ask.
Lord, in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.

God who inspires faith, we thank you
That you have been with us
In times of anxiety and uncertainty.
Keep watch over our memories of the past.
Lord, in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.

Faithful God, we thank you
That you will be with us
In the days that are to come.
Journey with us in the days that lie before us.
Lord, in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.

God who inspires faith, we thank you
For the life of your Son
Who for our sakes embraced human form.
May his life shape our lives in these present times.
Lord, in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.

Faithful God, we thank you
For the reassurance that you are merciful and gracious
And that your love abounds.
In your compassion, remember us and those whom we love.
Lord, in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.

God who inspires faith, we thank you
For the knowledge that you will be with us
In all that we now face.
Go before us and provide for us we ask.
Lord, in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.

Signed by:

  • Rt. Rev. Dr Martin Fair, Moderator of the General Assembly, Church of Scotland
  • Most Rev. Leo Cushley, Archbishop of St. Andrews and Edinburgh, Roman Catholic Church
  • Most Rev. Mark Strange, Primus, on behalf of the College of Bishops, Scottish Episcopal Church
  • Rev. John Fulton, Moderator, United Free Church of Scotland
  • Rev. Dr David Pickering, Moderator, United Reformed Church (Scotland)
  • Rev. Martin Hodson, General Director, Baptist Union of Scotland
  • Rev. Mark Slaney, District Chair, Methodist Church (Scotland)
  • Rev. May-Kane Logan, Chair, Congregational Federation in Scotland
  • Lt. Col. Carol Bailey, Secretary for Scotland, Salvation Army
  • Adwoa Bittle, Religious Society of Friends (Quakers)
  • Rev. Jim Ritchie, District Superintendent, British Isles North District, Church of the Nazarene
  • Pastor Chris Gbenle, Provincial Pastor, Province of Scotland, Redeemed Christian Church of God
  • Bishop Francis Alao, Church of God (Scotland)/Minority Ethnic Churches Together in Scotland (MECTIS)
  • Rev Fred Drummond, Director, Evangelical Alliance (Scotland)

Laughing in the face of the Impossible

Genesis 18:1-15; Matthew 9:35-10:8

Whatever you do don’t laugh! Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you know you’re not supposed to laugh but you just can’t help it? In a scene reminiscent of countless school assemblies where the headteacher calls out the names of people who are laughing, Sarah denies she was laughing. “It wasn’t me!” “Oh, yes it was,” comes the reply.

It was funny, but like school humour can be, also cruel. Promising Sarah a baby when she and Abraham are ‘old, advanced in age.’ Something Sarah had been longing for. The idea was ridiculous even when she shouldn’t have been listening in. It must have seen an impossibility for Sarah, and I wonder if the disciple/apostles offered a similar response when Jesus said to them: ‘Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. You received without payment; give without payment.’ Yeah right, Jesus. Matthew does not record the disciples’ response but at the very least they must have wondered whether such a thing was possible for them. Fine for Jesus, but for them?

With Sarah the birth didn’t happen immediately – it took, I assume, nine months. Matthew’s record of Jesus talking to the disciples is a remembering set down for the early church (We hear Judas listed as one of the 12 apostles and described as the one who betrayed him – the ‘audience’ of the gospel already know the story). Perhaps then this account from Matthew is a remembering that sets out something like a manifesto for the early church. They are to carry on the mission of Christ. They are to proclaim the kingdom is present (at hand/near/within). Like Sarah, this takes time and the seemingly impossible is not accomplished overnight.

Worshipping together in a church building, singing hymns is an impossibility for us at the present time but that will change – even if it takes 9 months. The impossible, unlikely might seem laughable or even cruel at times. Yet God sits in the midst of all of this. The mission of the church has grown – starting out with the lost sheep of the house of Israel – the mission, our understanding and context has grown and changed. We are still called to point out the kingdom, to be healers, challengers of evil, and to do so freely with hope recognising the grace and hope we have received in Christ.

The blessing of a child for Abraham and Sarah comes after their generous hospitality to the strangers. One of the consequences of the global pandemic is that we have all been chucked out of our church buildings, but we are finding different ways to meet, to be church. Perhaps the Holy Spirit is nudging us. We have tended to think of mission in terms of getting people (especially young people) to come to ‘our church.’ We can’t do that. This is an opportunity to ask about our calling. Rather than asking questions like ‘what are the barriers that stop people coming to church’ perhaps we need to be asking questions like ‘what are the barriers to the mission of the church?’ Consider where Jesus spends his time and focus. It is those on the ‘outside’, those in need.

We need to learn from the ‘black lives matter’ movement. The kingdom is at hand amongst those who are experiencing oppression, those who are beset by the evils of racism rooted in our structures, those who are struggling to put food on the table because of the way society is organised. For the church to be truly church, we need to seek out the help of such people, to listen and act. The barriers that exist in our society not only bar people from fair access to education, healthcare, jobs, justice etc but are also barriers to the ‘privileged’ joining in the kingdom – look where Jesus meets conflict in the gospels. In churches we have often seen ourselves as the host inviting others in, but in Christ we see the kingdom revealed in those whoare on the ‘margins’ and perhaps we need to think of ourselves as guests amongst those on the margins. In so doing we begin to discover the kingdom afresh, pointing it out, and will be enriched.

Freely offered hospitality, free giving shapes the church and in our suffering of not being able to meet together there is an opportunity to remember our calling. We cannot go back from here, only forward. There is a huge task ahead for the church – impossible? I don’t mind if you laugh because I certainly do, but do also remember God’s response ‘Is anything to wonderful for the Lord?’

Peace be with you

With love, Nick

Covid 19: Just blame God?!

Let's talk webinar posterCOVID 19:  Just blame God?!

A Webinar, hosted by the Strathclyde Methodist Circuit!

Be part of the first one!

5 Methodist people from different professions within Strathclyde begin a conversation on the effect of COVID 19 – and whether a better world could emerge . . .

There will be an opportunity to ask your questions . . .

When?     Tuesday 16th June at 8pm

How?  Register now using this link and you will be given the information you need to join the webinar!

https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_1I-IgT3hRMmHhCV0xHOALw

Let’s talk . . . . and then make a difference.