Pastoral letter August 2019

Dear Friends

We begin the Connexional Year welcoming our new Chair of District, Revd Mark Slaney.  The District welcome service is Saturday 31stAugust, 14:30 at Perth Methodist Church and refreshments will be served afterwards. Please pray for Mark and the District as he and we prepare for this new leadership in the District.

Itinerancy in Methodism can bring challenges as people loosen existing ties and seek to discover new friendships and relationships. One of the joys in this is that we can share new stories and old stories anew!  Across the District we have been engaging in conversations about our mission and our resources – sharing something of our story.  At the Methodist Conference this year the theme chosen for the year by the President and Vice President is “So what’s the story..?”.  This combines neatly with the Year of Testimony for 2019/20 – something that the Youth conference strongly encouraged us to commit to this year.

How can our stories build each other up, help us grow in faith and deepen our discipleship?  How can they challenge and enrich us?  How do our stories connect with the stories of Jesus?  How do the stories in our communities help us connect with others?

Over the summer I was fortunate to visit the town of Wittenburg in Germany – the place where Martin Luther lived and taught. The protestant reformation born out of a desire to share the gospel, the same Spirit in John Wesley, seeking to share the gospel story, in a way that was accessible for all.

These two followers of Jesus strived and struggled. As they cleared the debris of their lives and built trust in God they discovered the gift of God’s grace already dwelling within – and then just could not stop sharing this good news of amazing love.  The story of God’s great love in our lives and the difference it makes is something that can flow out of us.  So listen out for the stories in church, in communities (local, national & international) and ask what is my story?

With love

Nick

Pastoral Letter from Nick Baker – Colossians

Dear Friends

“To the saints and faithful brothers and sisters in Christ in Colossae: Grace to you and peace from God our Father.”  So writes Paul at the beginning of his letter to the Christian community in Colossae.    Paul’s reference to “in Christ” points us toward the relationship we have with/in Christ and is an important theme in the letter.

As we enter into Bible Month (remember Jonah last year), there is an opportunity for us to reflect across the circuit and as part of the wider church on a particular “book” of the Bible.

With all the conversations we are having about our resources and our relationships it is good to take some time to reflect together on scripture.  As we have these conversations across church, circuit, District, Connexion, ecumenically what does it mean to be “in Christ”?  As we move through the letter to the Colossians, we will explore this including what we might regard today as some of Paul’s more controversial words. For example, whilst I might want to point to the phrase “children, obey your parents in everything”, I suspect my children may have a different perspective!

Towards the end of the letter Paul does encourage the community to “devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with thanksgiving”.  As a means of remaining in Christ I think this is wise advice and words I shall endeavour to take to heart as I ready myself for conference and continue to engage in all sorts of conversations we are having across the circuit. Please give thanks and pray for the preachers as they lead us through Bible month and don’t forget this summer to give thanks for the beautiful world around us by enjoying a walk, a break, a breath of fresh air, a visit, a friend, a neighbour, or sharing in the circuit barbeque (17thAugust, Arbroath)

“Grace be with you”

Nick

Pastoral letter from Nick

As we travel into Lent, we are mindful of the challenges on the way ahead.  All of our churches in the Circuit and the District have been thinking about their calling as part of the conversation about being Methodist in our Christian life. These are not easy conversations and on our Lenten journey we are reminded of the cost of discipleship. Beyond Good Friday we witness disciples on the road to Emmaus who are clearly downcast – not only have they experienced the loss of a friend but also the loss of hope, the loss of a future and maybe even felt betrayed or let down by Jesus.  Why did he let things get that far?  But then something changes in them.  Jesus doesn’t come back to life as such, rather he is raised to new life in a way the disciples don’t initially grasp.  It is in sharing a meal with a stranger that they suddenly encounter this new life of Christ.

Church is changing and ways of being church are dying even as new forms of church emerge and it can feel like we are in an alien land. For example, how many of us are confident in our use of social media like Facebook, twitter and Instagram or the confusion around Brexit, or the shocking growth in Foodbanks and our own clothing projects,  and the changing nature of belief…

That is both painful and hopeful for us and a challenge comes in not simply continuing our discipleship but actively pursuing and allowing that to grow.  The theme taken by the President and Vice-President of Conference, Revd Michaela Youngson and Bala Gnanapragasam is that of Radical Grace and Transforming Hope. Remembering, embodying the grace offered to us and to all, invites us to respond with love to the needs of our neighbours.  As the prophet Jeremiah (29.7) advises “seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.”  At such times it is good to sing our songs (we are Methodists after all) and explore together.  One such opportunity presents itself when the President and Vice-President will be visiting the District, hosted by this Circuit.  On Sunday 31st March all are invited to share in the Big Sing at Perth including a tea and addresses by the President and Vice-President.

With love

Nick

 

 

Advent – pause and pray

Dear Friends

Waiting on God can be a frustrating experience – especially in the mad rush towards Christmas.  The Season of advent is a gift inviting us to pause and pray.

Across the Circuit and District all Methodist Churches are joining in the conversation about ‘being Methodist in our Christian life in Scotland today’.  At the Circuit meeting in March we will receive reports from each church as to how we are responding to the questions and challenges and the plans we are putting in place.  This is not an easy time and we know there are no easy answers and yet, as the paper reminds us, we are called to be faithful disciples following the will of God even when that comes at great cost.

The paper also reminds us that God has not given up on us and we are strongly encouraged to pray.  As the hymn ‘What a friend we have in Jesus’ reminds us ‘take it to the Lord in prayer’. Waiting on, listening for, the Word of God can be a frustrating experience but can also be liberating. In the uncertainty admitting we don’t know can be a beginning, opening a door to encounter the living God simply saying here we are God.

I encourage all the churches to take the opportunity afforded by advent to pause and pray about the next steps.  Listening for what God might be saying through the scriptures, listening to the voices of those in our communities as we engage in action, listening for that small voice.  The insistent cry of new birth breaking into our world demanding all our focus and attention, announcing I am with you – what are you going to do about it!

With love

Nick

All are Welcome in this place

We sing this from time to time, but I have been challenged to take it more seriously.  I was very impressed with the arrangements at Methodist Conference to make the Conference accessible in all sorts of ways including a ramp up to an adjustable podium.

This came after learning that someone was not able to attend worship at our church because they turned up in a wheelchair.  This is a matter of regret and something we have the ability to do something about.  In addition, I recognise some of our own members struggle with the stairs.  Whilst we are working on plans for a lift as part of the refurbishment, this will take quite some time.  At the worship consultation we discussed meeting downstairs for worship on a Sunday.  Whilst there are some practical issues, these can be resolved and we are small enough in number to fit comfortably downstairs.  I would like us to try this so that we truly are a welcoming place of worship.

Welcoming all can also mean going out of the building to let people know they are welcome.  The first Dundee Pride takes place on Saturday 22nd September.  I have reserved a space in the march for Dundee Methodist Church.  I shall be going along with a few others.  If any of you would like to join us or find out more, please speak to me.

Nick

Worship Consultation brief résumé

Wednesday afternoon’s discussion included the following:

  • feedback on “Jonah in June” and Café Service and Trip for lunch at St John’s, Arbroath;
  • lengthy conversation about the challenges for all of us of how to actively be and appear “welcoming to and of all”
  • Harvest – Café Service on  23rd September based on All We Can material;
  • care for, interaction with, and involvement of children in worship, across a range of ages;
  • window and porch displays
  • next Meeting – Wednesday  7th November, 1pm.

The Start of the Methodist Year

The new Methodist Year starts on 1st September, and is the time for the new Church Stewards team to take office. We express our prayerful and active support to the new Church Stewards for the forthcoming year, our thanks to those continuing or demitting office, and our appreciation to all office-holders in our church community.

Pastoral letter from Nick

Dear Friends

It was good to join with so many other Methodists from around the UK and the world at the Methodist Conference in Nottingham.  Gathering with several hundred others to worship, sing, listen and confer was a real privilege and encouragement, if also at times somewhat challenging.  It was a strong reminder that we are connected with a body much bigger than just our local churches, circuits or even District.  Conversations about God at work in the world, what it means to be Methodist in our working out of our faith, how we relate with other churches and faiths are all shaped by Methodists from Scotland, Wales, Cornwall, Norfolk, Yorkshire, London etc.

A bit like a Church Council there are plenty of differing views and yet we were all held together by a common faith, a mutual love and respect.  A guided conversation was held in front of the conference between two people from very differing perspectives regarding marriage and relationships.  The respect and love that shone through at this point was an example for all of us about how we engage with one another.  I have reproduced the guidance here about how we hold together as a Christian community whilst living with contradictory ideas.  Living as a community with contradictory ideas is nothing new as many of the letters in the New Testament testify but St Paul encouraged people to recall their primary identity as members of the body of Christ.

The body connects us in life and through death.  This is good for us to remember as we mourn the death, and celebrate the life, of Heather  – a local preacher in this Circuit and Methodist throughout her life.  We give thanks for her ministry amongst us, her commitment to her Lord, her challenge to live in sympathy with the environment, and the reminder of infinite grace.

With love

Nick

A model statement on Living with Contradictory Convictions

We continue to believe that God has been revealed in Jesus Christ, accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Saviour, and live in communion with God and in the power of the Holy Spirit.

We cherish our place within Christ’s Church recognising that it is Christ alone who chooses, calls and confirms us as members of His church, the body of Christ.

Whilst we may not all agree about everything, we recognise the importance of the truths which bind us together as well as the issues which currently divide us.

Therefore, we resolve:

  • To engage with each other openly, honestly, prayerfully and graciously
  • To treat each other with respect and dignity, recognising the sincerity of the faith of those who may see things differently
  • To seek to learn from one another as we travel together as fellow pilgrims
  • To renounce all language and behaviours that attempt to coerce others to change their views or beliefs
  • To seek, as far as conscience allows, to preserve the fellowship of Christ’s Church
  • To unite under the authority of scripture as we seek live as authentic Christian disciples in our own generation

Needing a minister?

The Rev Nick Baker is at Conference until Thursday 5th July. If you need a minister before Thursday, please contact the Rev Nik Wooller.