Prayer in the Evening

As the Methodist Church in Scotland prepares to be involved in new ways in the Connexional Evangelism and Growth strategy we have been encouraged to pray, perhaps finding new and varied ways to pray together.

As one small offering towards the wider prayer menu of the whole district, Andrew and Jill Baker  plan to offer ‘Prayer in the Evening’ on each of the following Saturday evenings – and if you would like to join us on Zoom to share in that, you would be very welcome.

  • Saturday 31st July
  • Saturday 7th August
  • Saturday 14th August
  • Saturday 21st August

A Zoom link (the same for each week) is available from either of us or from the District Administrator, Sue Marshall-Jennings.

ejillbaker@btinternet.com
amb.strathclyde@btinternet.com  or
districtadmin@methodistchurchinscotland.net

Our hope is that different people attending the prayer time would read/lead various sections of the worship.  The liturgy will be based on the one found at pp15-25 in the Methodist Worship Book and will be posted in the chat for each meeting and sent out with the Zoom link (although any printed copies must be destroyed after the meetings for copyright reasons).

The whole service takes less than 15 minutes; the Zoom room will open at 9pm on the dates above, allowing a short time for conversation/sharing concerns for prayer and the liturgy will begin at 9:15pm after which participants will depart in silence, with the meeting closing by 9:30pm.

So do contact one of us or Sue if you would like to give this a try on one or more of the Saturday evenings over the summer period.

With all good wishes,

Jill

Musings from the Manse 18th July 2021

In our reading a few weeks ago we heard that Jesus called his 12 apostles and sent them out to do the work they had witnessed in him. He sent them out two by two, and they took with them the authority to cast out demons, to anoint the sick, to cure broken bodies, to teach people about the kingdom of God.

Who knows just how long they were out there, but by the end of their mission and upon their return, when they saw Jesus in the distance, they probably hauled off in a pure sprint to reach him, much like that son who ran into his father’s wide open arms, after being away too long.

 

Their return from their maiden adventure is not documented in any readily available Christian art, and has certainly not been publicized widely in popular culture.

But it could be–and, quite frankly, I think it should be.

With brilliant brush strokes on a large canvas, the scene could be painted for this tender moment. The largest object would be the tree covered in hues of green leaves, that are dancing in the gentle evening sunlight. Collapsed beneath it, bathed in its generous shade, the apostles gather around Jesus, this rag-tag band of former fishermen and freshly formed messengers, exhausted from their recently frantic lives.

The scars of their travels cover their bodies…. Without any protection and a lack of traveling food supply, dependent on the kindness of strangers for a simple meal, these men are thinner than before, their ribs exposed through torn clothing, the same garments they departed in.

Most of them have tan lines running across their feet, where their sandals–now removed–once pressed in the soles of them worn thin, evidence of the miles they had covered, and the number of times the sand had been knocked off on an inhospitable doorstep.

These men are reclining next to Jesus, you feel they have been telling him story after story, of how many people they were able to help, of how many lives that have been restored, but all at an expense to their own preservation. They are nestled into the green grass that covers the landscape, staring up into the white clouds dotting a sky, giving birth to a perfect shade of blue.

Just on the left side of the canvas is a lake, still and quiet, yet the remnants of a storm linger far in the distance. Just at the edge of the water is a boat, one that has weathered many storms, but is strong and sturdy, and ready to hold the apostles, and all their cares.

On the front of that boat is a basket overflowing with all different kinds of food, including fruits and meats, and the finest bread hands have ever made.

However, if you look on the other side of that lake, just barely recognizable, there seems to be crowd of people heading this direction.

Then, on the other side of the canvas, off in the distance, just at the crest of a hill, you can faintly see another crowd coming into view. They know where Jesus and his disciples are, and they will soon be within earshot demanding the attention and compassion of them all.

The artist has painted Jesus as the only one whose face is turned towards the crowds. His expression is one of knowing, without a hint of panic that the disciples could predict.

Besides, most of them are gazing into the sky as they remember their adventures, reflecting on their work, feeling their exhaustion, and one or two are already fast asleep.

Jesus, sensing that his precious children need to rest, knowing they have nothing else to give, yet seeing the crowd approaching, whispers an invitation to his disciples, an offering of all they need: “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.”

If we study this picture long enough, we can probably identify with almost every aspect of it or emotion in it, although some may draw us in closer than others. We can identify with those storm clouds in the distance, the trials we have overcome, the difficult journeys we have been on, the mountains we have climbed.

We can probably name the things that feel like the crowds lingering just over a hill, or around the bend– pressures to work long hours, to volunteer for something new at church, or the stress of not having work at all.

There are responsibilities for families we love dearly, beautiful grown up children/grandchildren that seem to still need us constantly, or the pain of a broken connections and dreams that have been shattered.

And on top of all those emotions, we are overwhelmed by the amount of things there are to DO in our lives…. Each day we are pressured by media adverts and our commitments, to give more, produce more, care more, accomplish more. Our lives can be so busy– the world can make so many demands, and even when they are wonderful things we love, life can still be so busy… physically, emotionally, exhaustingly busy.

I have recently been reading Barbara Brown Taylor’s latest book: An Altar in the World. It has been the place where I try to slow down, and do something just for myself, spending a little time reflecting on each chapter. But I am currently stuck on one particular part she calls “The Practice of Saying No.” As a matter of fact, I have read this chapter at least four times now.

In it she offers insights on just how busy we are, the lost art of hearing Jesus’ invitation to us, and giving ourselves permission to rest, to claim the Sabbath time God gives us.

She even has the audacity to accuse me– in all the busyness of my life– of trying to earn my own salvation.1

In one part, she notes that in China the polite answer to the question of “How are you?” is to say, “I am very busy, thank you.”2

That is the measure of our success– an indication of how we run in this world– and measure of lives, no matter where we live.

And then I think about Jesus’ invitation again….

We too could use that cool grass between our toes, the blue sky overhead, the rest underneath a tree, the Jesus who listens to us. And the gift is that we too are on the guest list, and Jesus extends the same invitation to us, in our weary, tired lives, with demands just around the corner. “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.”

The invitation is there, and the painting is not complete… until we can see ourselves as a part of it.

Accepting Jesus’ invitation may not be so clean as a boat floating on the open sea, far from all the things we need to escape from. But accepting his invitation is crucial for our lives for us to live the abundant life he intends for us.

We, like the apostles, are not able to give from a place that is empty. We are not able to be present, fully present, to our families, our lives, our work, unless we can– for however long– be fully present to Jesus in a place that nourishes our very souls.

Our one task is to put this ahead of all the other things…to open ourselves up to hear his invitation, and respond with the space and the time to listen to his call to take our heavy laden lives, and offer it all to Jesus who will take it from us, even for just a little while.

Listen to his voice, calling us into perfect peace, the kind that only he can give.

“Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.”

 

Rev Nik Wooller

18th July 2021

 

Be Bold

The latest edition of Connexion is now available. Featuring articles by the incoming President and Vice-President of the Methodist Conference, the theme explores being bold.

Dundee worship

The Dundee Church Council has decided that, for various reasons including the current “Covid spike”, physical gathering in Marketgait will not be before August.  Worshipping physically together has now resumed in Perth, Arbroath, and Montrose – some Blairgowrie friends have travelled to Perth and thought is being given about a more local venue.

YouTube videos will continue as before.

Pastoral letter from Nick Baker

May 18th 2021

Dear Friends

Are we coming or going?  I don’t know!  A bit like sitting at the top of a roller coaster there is that moment of excitement and nervousness (if you like roller coasters – if you don’t then maybe it’s just terror).

By the time you read this letter, things will have changed from the time I am writing and, over the next months (the plan covers June – August) things will have changed again – here endeth my prophetic skills!  None of us know what the landscape will look like in the coming months but in that we put our hand in the hand of God and hold tight.  Unlike any quarterly plan I have ever created (and I had early training sitting with my dad using the large ‘plan’ paper and boards to help him check names and churches before I was even in my teens), this is by far the most challenging.  This includes the time, when as a student minister in Weardale I was responsible for making the plan for 9 chapels with me as a student minister, a total of 4 local preachers and a reel-to-reel tape recorder.  We are living in uncertain times having spent a lot of the past 12-18 months locked down and socially distant.

Research carried out on the impact of the pandemic on the whole Church in Scotland reflects something of our own experience revealing the importance of online church and worship.  It was something we had begun to explore already (with services in the circuit led from Bulgaria) and it was one of those things ‘we should really think more about and act upon’ but got crowded out by all the other things we felt needed doing.  There is now an opportunity.  Both the research (which took place across a range of denominations) and our own Scottish Methodist District urges us to take time and not simply revert to old patterns.  I know from my own experience in this past year that recovery takes longer than I might wish, and time and space have to be allowed for that.

Making the Plan prior to the pandemic was becoming an increasing challenge as witnessed by the creeping number of ‘Own Arrangements’.  Rather than trying to work harder and faster to bail out the water of the sinking boat, perhaps this is the time to get out of the boat and try seeking Jesus on the water.  As we do so, we might find ourselves feeling a bit like Peter (Matthew 14:29-31):

[Jesus] said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” 31 Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?”

I have a huge amount of respect for Peter (for getting out of the boat in the first place) and sympathy for when he became frightened, suddenly realising what he was doing.  It reminds me a bit of one of those roadrunner cartoons where Wile E. Coyote runs off the edge of the cliff and then suddenly realises there is no solid ground underneath him and plunges down (he always survives!).

The Plan is a huge shift for all of us, but I believe Christ is calling to us.  We have made new connections online in these past months that we would not have done in our church buildings.  For the vast majority (though not all) we have been thankful for the technology that has allowed us to connect with one another and carry on being the church regardless of the building – a lesson that the congregations in Montrose and Blairgowrie & Rattray have already shared with us.  One of the things that has been reinforced for me is that whilst I am something of a tourist in the digital world (I don’t spend most of my life there), many people do live there – ask almost any teenager about their smartphone!  We need to ask ourselves what they might want on a Sunday morning, and ask what we, as Christians, have got to share?  And of course, it is not just teenagers but many people of all ages can spend a lot of time there (my mum is very grateful for her tablet not only for keeping in touch with the family but watching the cricket, listening to music etc).

This is certainly not to suggest we should all spend our time online – I for one am very keen to sing some hymns alongside others when we are allowed and share in the Lord’s Supper gathered physically.  Alongside that I recognise physical gathering may also cause nervousness or fear:

Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing (1 Thessalonians 5:11)

If you are feeling nervous or fearful, get in touch with someone else from church and chat with them.  As physical places of worship open, they do so, under law and guidelines from government and church (and following government advice encouraging people to get tested, I am also starting to use the free self-test kits which can be ordered online or picked up in local pharmacies).  Measures are in place and will remain so until we are advised differently.  I am truly looking forward to seeing you all in person (in the online worship the preachers and leaders cannot see the congregation and the preachers are missing that connection as well).

In making the Plan I have tried to take account of the different currents that are flowing and allow some flexibility using the resources we have.  Where D appears on the plan for ‘digital’, each church will need to decide if it wants to meet physically that week and use the online material or worship at home as we have been doing for so much of this past year. I have also put a note on the Plan – don’t forget to Pray!  It can be so easy to be swept along that, like Peter, we get overwhelmed and forget to seek the presence of Christ.  Time and time again, God says to the people in the Bible ‘Fear not’ (why not see if you can find a verse that says this or, ‘do not be afraid’).  Whether we are coming or going Christ is present and prayer helps us to put our hand into the hand of God.

Please pray for the circuit, the churches and the preachers at this time.  May the Spirit breathe through us to be a blessing of love and peace in our homes and our communities.

With love

Nick