Safeguarding Training – what is your status?

It is important that everyone’s Safeguarding status has not expired and is as up-dated as possible. Why?

  • most importantly, taking the well-being of others, especially vulnerable persons, with the utmost seriousness
  • with that, recognition of our own tendencies to pre-judge and make assumptions
  • the overall position of the Methodist Church – connexionally and locally – if (when) issues do arise
  • our qualification to hold office, exercise responsibility, & undertake tasks within the Church.

For most of us, this means undertaking updated Foundation Training; for some, advanced modules also.

If you are not clear about your current ‘status’ (level of training last undertaken & when), please check with Sue M-J.

There are still plenty places available on the Foundation training taking place online on Saturday 20th August from 10 am-1 pm.  Anyone required to complete or refresh with the Foundation Module should  sign up here https://foundation-module-aug2022.eventbrite.co.uk.

If online training is not possible or useful for you, please contact Sue M-J so other methods can be arranged.

Pastoral letter from Nick

September 2021

 

Dear Friends

 

At the beginning of a new connexional year we remain in uncertain times.  Thinking back to this time last year, in terms of the pandemic there is more optimism but there is still cause for concern and fear and anxiety.  How do we address such things?  How can we be both anxious and optimistic?  I encourage your prayers for the church at Dundee who have taken the decision to close their building but at the same time have decided to continue worshipping once a fortnight and meet once a month for fellowship and exploring Methodist identity.  Here there is both sadness and hope about what the future might hold.  Through Jesus Christ we are invited to belong to a community in which Christ is fully present and yet still to come.  Life and faith contain contrasting and contradictory notions which somehow all hold together.  How can we share our doubts at the same time as the joy and peace we find in our faith?

Perhaps we can find time and opportunity to share honestly something of our faith and questions with one another – after all that is part of what it is to be part of a community.  Or if somebody asks you, why do you go to church or watch a service online, what is our response?  In a recent conversation the District Chair has encouraged us to think in terms of church not being a place where we ‘go’ but rather as somewhere we are sent ‘from’.

How does church relate to the here and now and issues such as Climate Change?  By the time the plan for the next quarter comes COP26 will have happened in Glasgow.  Please do pray and, if you are able, check what the Strathclyde circuit are doing to support Scottish Methodists engaging with COP26.

I would also invite your prayers for our neighbours in the North of Scotland Mission circuit following the death of their Superintendent, Revd Colin Plenderleith.  In the midst of deep grief and uncertainty we also hold on to the hope of resurrection. Christ in the midst of death and life, a constant companion through the power of the Holy Spirit.

May the risen Christ be our comforter and guide in the days to come.

With love

Nick

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

Fellowship Group meetings

All are welcome to a gathering for coffee (or tea or even hot chocolate) and chat on the last Monday of each month downstairs in Marketgait at 7pm.  Future dates are Mondays 30th March, 27th  April, 25th May, and 29th June.

More information from Fiona Thomas.

Café Service 1st March – pastoral care

A café service will take place on Sunday 1st March instead of the last Sunday of the month.  Within the worship there will be an opportunity to think about and share thoughts regarding pastoral care in the life of church – all accompanied by refreshments.

Pastoral letter from Nick

Dear friends

As I write at the beginning of February, it seems just a moment ago it was Christmas and then in this plan we will travel through Ash Wednesday, Lent, Holy week and Easter and Pentecost at which point summer will be just around the corner!  Time is a curious thing – it slips by even what you’re not looking, and all the while there is the stuff that needs to be taken care of in our lives, at home, in our families, at work, in church.

In the telling of the creation story of creation, we know that God blesses time (Genesis 2:1-3).  Time, like life is a blessing of God and in the beginning, we are being reminded to simply spend time with God.  The story of Jesus being tested in the wilderness is time apart with God and Lent encourages us to embrace and do likewise.  To allow ourselves simply to be in the presence of God without a list, agenda or anything else.  In Mark’s account of the gospel after learning of the death of John the Baptist and before responding to the crowds (feeding of the five thousand) Jesus says to the disciples:

“Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place, and rest a while: for there were many coming and going, and they had no leisure so much as to eat.” Mark 6.31

 There is need to pause amongst the everyday of life and take a breath and the authorised version captures it well – a time to come ‘apart’ in the presence of God.  As Jesus notes elsewhere there will always be demands on our time but hardwired into us, in the act of creation, is the need for us simply to take time to be in the presence of God.

The blessing of God rest upon you, with love, Nick

Faith Lunch

Following on from our decision to share fellowship over a meal on a regular basis – we plan to have a faith lunch after worship on Sunday 1st December.  As previously, everyone is invited to bring something along for sharing and a sheet is available on the table to indicate whether you are able to bring a sweet or savoury dish.  We do ask that – in view of various allergies and food intolerances – you label the ingredients of what you bring please.  Many thanks.

The Church Stewards

Election Special! (But don’t stop reading…)

Not wanting to be part of a larger union, disputes about trade and independence were hugely significant issues in the forthcoming election.  There was considerable division in the country as to how to respond. Some wanted to be conciliatory, others favoured a more aggressive stance.

The year was 1774 and the cause of the controversy was anger in the colonies of America about the relationship with Great Britain – war was looming.  John Wesley was in Bristol where the divisions were keenly felt because of the trade relationships with the new world.  An election was called late in the year and voting began on 7thOctober – closing 23 days later in November!

The day before voting started John Wesley records in his journal (October 6, 1774):

“I met those of our society who had votes in the ensuing election, and advised them
1. To vote, without fee or reward, for the person they judged most worthy
2. To speak no evil of the person they voted against, and
3. To take care their spirits were not sharpened against those that voted on the other side.”

This is sound advice as we prepare to vote in 2019.  It is also worth noting only some Methodists could vote – today we all can, and it is our solemn duty to do so.  When the result was announced one of the MPs elected was a man named Edmund Burke. This is what he said in his speech:

“Authoritative instructions, mandates issued, which the member is bound blindly and implicitly to obey, to vote and argue for, though contrary to the clearest conviction of his judgement and conscience – these are things utterly unknown to the laws of this land, and which arise from a fundamental mistake of the whole order and tenor of our constitution. Parliament is not a congress of ambassadors from different and hostile interests … but a deliberate assembly of one nation, with one interest, that of the whole …You choose a member indeed; but when you have chosen him, he is not member of Bristol, he is a member of Parliament.” The Works of Edmund Burke – Speech to the Electors of Bristol 3rdNovember 1774

The point Burke made is important – MPs have a responsibility to represent the interests of all of us – they are not delegates for a chosen few. In the Christmas season ‘for all’ is born in the manager.  In Christ, God becomes human taking on the responsibility not just to be one person but representative of all humanity.  It is not surprising therefore that Jesus goes on to prioritise those who are vulnerable, those who have been excluded and marginalised and in so doing asks questions about the society in which he lives.  As the followers of Jesus it is incumbent upon us to ask those same questions in our words and actions recognising our shared humanity. We should also be aware that ‘for all’ is more than just humanity.  In Christ the whole created order is being redeemed – humanity cannot exist apart from creation.   Humanity is part of the gift of creation and again we need to ask questions about this in our words and deeds.  These questions form the basis of our judgement about who we consider to be “most worthy” when we vote.  And when we have voted and the choice has been made, we offer our support and, hold to account, those who have been chosen.  And if we are tempted to tune out the election or the news, or get frustrated thinking does my vote make a difference, remember the difference the birth of a single child 2000 years ago has made in your life and give thanks.

May the peace of Christ abide in your hearts now and in the days to come.

With love

Nick

Pastoral Committee meeting

The Pastoral Committee will meet on Wednesday at 1pm.  Business will include the annual Reading of Lists and agreement of the return for the Connexional Schedule; also a general review of our system of pastoral care.

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