Treat All Refugees Fairly
A refugee, migrant, asylum seeker, someone on holiday, and someone here on business, are walking along the promenade, how do you tell the difference between them?
I would suggest that as there is no perceivable difference between them, you may say ahh but it’s how they are dressed, even that does not help as the business man is in his beach clothes. There may be other means of telling the difference, however each of the descriptions mentioned conjures up an image, perhaps something we have read or heard about the various groups conjures up some perceived way of looking at them which then dictates how we respond to them.
Let’s look at this another way, growing up in the 1960’s the cinemas and television seemed to give a regular diet of western or cowboy and Indian films. In them the Native American Indians were referred to as “savages”. A word that instantly conjures up an image in our mind and can raise certain prejudices. In the United States of America after the civil war with the emancipation of slaves, some of the southern states brought in some laws that discriminated against African Americans making them second class citizens. David Olusoga in his book Black and British a Forgotten History, describes how during the 1700’s some slave owners in Britain scared or branded their slaves as a mark of ownership. Most of this was done to de-humanise people of other races, in order to control them. Olusoga also notes in his book that when John Wesley visited Georgia USA he was so horrified by the treatment of slaves that he campaigned against slavery.
This de-humanisation still happens today, by calling someone a refugee, or a migrant, or asylum seeker, there is the tendency to look at that description and not at the person behind that. This then can affect how those people are treated. Take for instance the asylum seekers travelling across the channel on flimsy boats to get to this country, this government has passed laws to make their entry into this country illegal. That means that they will be treated in a different way. This leads to an inequality in the way that those people are treated.
Micah 6:8 calls for a just society with humility, “what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with God?”. The Methodist Church on their web page has some reflections on what it means for the Methodist Church to be a justice seeking church. Which is based on Micah.
Many years ago, a Minister I knew used to give a blessing at the end of each service which included the following “militant on earth triumphant in heaven”. "The Church consists principally of two parts, the one called the Church triumphant; the other, the Church militant. The Church triumphant is that most glorious and happy assemblage of blessed spirits, and of those who have triumphed over the world, the flesh, and the iniquity of Satan, and are now exempt and safe from the troubles of this life and enjoy everlasting bliss. The Church militant is the society of all the faithful still dwelling on earth. It is called militant, because it wages eternal war with those implacable enemies, the world, the flesh and the devil.
NEW YEAR MESSAGE 2023
I would like to wish you all a happy New Year, it’s that time of year when after the indulgences of the Christmas celebrations our waist line can feel a little tighter and we have the option of buying new clothes or dieting to help reduce the waist line. The New Year is a time of celebration throughout the world as we see the Old Year out and the New year in with each country having its own customs So we start with good intentions making New Years resolutions. But have you ever wondered when resolutions were started, do you think it is something that has been going for around 100 years or so. If you do you would be surprised to learn that New Year’s resolutions were made in Ancient Babylon to their gods, when they promised to repay debts and returned borrowed objects. Ancient Rome had the tradition of making promises to their god Janus for whom the month of January is named. When the Rome Empire took Christianity as its official state religion in the 4th century the New Year became a time of fasting and prayer.
Some of the traditions that we have are fairly new, it could be the old adage that when we have done something for three years it becomes a tradition, in which case for me on New Year’s Eve we watch Jools Holland Hootenanny. There is the tradition in most Methodist Church’s of holding the annual Covenant service in January. Which is when we remember that we are all called by God into his church, the body of Christ. In a world where culturally there seems to be an emphasis on doing and acting for our own benefit and not for others the Covenant prayer reminds us of our commitment to God and his kingdom, its reminds us that at times we may be called upon by God to do what is not something we prefer to do and under normal circumstance we would run a mile in the opposite direction to avoid doing that which God want has called us to do. The story of Jonah is a story of Jonah who tries to avoid doing what God had called him to do, no matter what he does he cannot escape God and his calling, to prophecy against the people of Nineveh.
As a circuit and as a church, the body of Christ, the circuit will be seeking to find out where each church is in their walk with God and where they see the future of their fellowship through a series of consultations with each church fellowship in February. So at this time of year I invite you in preparation to this to look back on your walk with God in the Methodist Church.
As a reminder to you below is the response for the covenant prayer;-
I am no longer my own but yours.
Your will, not mine, be done in all things,
wherever you may place me,
in all that I do and in all that I may endure;
when there is work for me and when there is none;
when I am troubled and when I am at peace.
Your will be done
when I am valued and when I am disregarded;
when I find fulfilment and when it is lacking;
when I have all things, and when I have nothing.
I willingly offer all I have and am
to serve you, as and where you choose.
Glorious and blessèd God,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
you are mine and I am yours.
May it be so for ever.
Let this covenant now made on earth
be fulfilled in heaven. Amen.
Happy and peaceful New Year to all
Easter is a time of two halves in more ways than one, there is the commercial side of Easter where we are encouraged to buy and give Easter eggs, or perhaps take a holiday, have a meal out or a special meal at home. People looking forward to family and friends getting together once more where the significance of the easter egg has been lost in tales about the easter bunny. Easter is a time of celebrating new life as we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus from the grave following his arrest
Then there is the Christian side to Easter when we celebrate the risen Jesus, some may wonder what all the fuss is about. After all living in today’s world, who cares what happened, what difference does it make if Jesus rose from the dead?
Firstly it can make all the difference in the world. If Jesus did not rise from the dead, then thousands of believers have died as martyrs for a simple deception. But if Jesus did rise, then Jesus is still alive today. The implications are numerous as death was conquered.
Over the years there have been quite a few high powered and influential people challenging the very core of the Christian faith. Equally there have been many eminent scholars starting with Saul who was a devout Jew who came to believe in the resurrection, on his conversion became known as Paul. When he was known as Saul he opposed the growing Christian faith who acknowledged Jesus as the risen saviour. Augustine was another scholar along with Sir Isaac Newton and C.S Lewis all believed in the resurrection, there are also the facts at the time of the death and resurrection of Jesus to consider.
Within a few weeks of the resurrection there was large growth in the Christian movement the opposite to what was expected as without the leader Jesus, the Christian movement was expected to fizzle out. Instead one of the enemies of the Christian faith eventually admitted that what happened upset the world. After Jesus’ arrest the last we saw or heard of the disciples was of them fleeing for their lives in fear, Peter an outspoken supporter of Jesus denied knowing him three times, yet ten out of the original disciples were martyred for their faith some suffering horrendous deaths. What was it that turned these cowards into heroes? They had each seen the risen Jesus alive again.
The burial of Jesus was one that would prevent people taking his body away. Jesus’ body was wrapped mummy-like in strips of cloth, laid to rest in an empty tomb and then a heavy stone possibly weighing a couple of tons was rolled into place. Some of the roman elite guard were put in place to keep an eye out for Jesus’ followers and to prevent anyone taking the body of Jesus out of the tomb. If Jesus’ enemies had taken his body they would have revealed it for all to see and nothing more would have happened, Christianity would have fizzled out..
Finally the resurrected Jesus appeared before many different people over the forty days after his death. Some of the first witnesses were women; others were travellers on the road to Emmaus along with the disciples and all those at Pentecost who would witness the power of the Holy Spirit.
Whilst each one of us need to make the decision on our own, the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus some of it being hard to explain away points to a Christian faith that is based on fact.
What are you doing during Lent this year?
The reason I ask this question is that quite a few would respond by saying that they are giving something up for lent like chocolate which seems to be a popular confection to give up, or you may take up some other challenge this Lent. You may be saying that you will be on a Lent Course or some other kind of study this lent.
For me whatever I do I look upon Lent as a time of preparation for the most important Christian festival in the Church Calendar. Traditionally Lent is a time of Fasting with the preparations starting on Shrove Tuesday, the day when all those bits of food which would not be eaten during the traditional Lenten fast are cooked and consumed, today there is a commercial aspect to ‘pancake day’ as the supermarkets promote the making of pancakes with no reference to its original meaning. This is followed by Ash Wednesday the name comes from the tradition of marking peoples foreheads with the sign of the cross in ashes which are usually made from burning the palm Sunday crosses of the previous year, Lent is then the forty days between Ash Wednesday and Easter. Sunday is excluded from the days of Fasting as it is a feast day of worship. The Forty days reflect the forty days that Jesus spent in the wilderness after his baptism. For Jesus this was a time when he was tempted by Satan, as he prepared himself for the start of his ministry on earth.
Perhaps I should ask ‘how are you preparing for the time when we commemorate Christ’s death up on the cross, the time when through his resurrection Christ defeated death?’ This may be a strange thing to ask but then again the cross with either the image of Christ on it or the empty cross is a powerful image of the Christian faith. Corpus Christie, the cross depicting an image of Christ on the cross, is a reminder every time it is viewed of the greatest act of salvation that has happened Christ’s death up on the cross as atonement for all of our sins. Equally the empty cross is just as potent as it’s a reminder that Christ was raised from death, through his resurrection the power of sin and death no longer has its grip on all who follow Christ.
Whatever you do to during this Lenten time, may your preparations bring you ever closer to our risen Lord.
Greetings from the Manse
We start a New Year in a similar way to the start of 2021, where there was hope on the horizon with the Covid-19 vaccine. The hope now is that with two vaccine shots and a third booster our bodies are in a better position to cope with Covid-19 if we get it. We are still being encouraged take other precautions.
Looking back, I have been reflecting on what if anything we have learnt from this Pandemic. I think one of the things we have learnt is that we should not take anything for granted, and that plans we make for the future can be cancelled overnight. Because of this limitation on travel and meeting we have learnt to make the most out of some of the simpler things in life, along with our family, friends and neighbours. Another year on we know that we are in this for the long haul, its not so much a sprint as a marathon where we need to pace ourselves. There is the uncertainty of what will happen after Christmas. One aspect of all of this is that with the restrictions in travel and at times activities that can take place in our churches, has meant that we have found ourselves in the position of having more time on our hands. Having more time on our hands can for some be a blessing and for others a curse. Especially when the world rewards activity, Which is counter to what our relationship with God is meant to reflect in our lives. In our covenant prayer we are reminded of our relationship with God and a reminder of our calling. In particular the line ‘when there is work for me and when there is none.’ We are reminded that even when we are at rest God’s will is being done. This concept of being at rest which is according to God’s will can seem at odds with the world around us. Success is often measured by what is done which can equate for some work. A factory producing widgets is deemed successful by the amount of widgets it makes per hour compared with its competitor. Hospitals are measured by the amount of patients they can see in a particular time scale. Someone who is successful in business is seen as someone who is always busy. A football teams success is not only measured by the matches it wins but also by the fans that support it and the takings at the gate.
Yet if we compare this to the life of Jesus, whose ministry lasted for 3 years, where he spent long days and nights away from the disciples at prayer, when in the final week he could only muster 12 followers to have a meal with and one of those betrayed him. And when he went to the garden after the meal he prayed when he could easily have made his escape. Jesus was rejected for a thief. Are these marks of a successful man? By the standards of this world the answer would be no… but by the standards of Gods Kingdom the answer is yes. Success in God’s Kingdom amounts to more than the values of this world. One way of looking at the covenant prayer is that God is interested in all of our life not simply the times when we seem to be run off our feet doing Church work. God wants us to enjoy life in our leisure times, even if that means that we simply do nothing. Doing nothing, not doing any work is emphasised in the Sabbath. In Jewish culture the Sabbath is a 24 hour period when there is no work, or it is kept to the absolute minimum, doing only what is essential. Jesus emphasised Sabbath as being a gift from God ‘Man is not made for the Sabbath; the Sabbath is made for man’. The Sabbath should be seen as a time of rest and recuperation, in the busyness of this world it is quite easy to overlook the Sabbath by doing something. Someone once said to me that we can spend too much time doing human and not enough time being human. One lesson which I have relearnt over the past few weeks is the lesson that we need time of inactivity, we need times when we can rest at God’s feet, if we don’t take that time how can we be certain that what we do is according to his will?
Happy Christmas and a Peacefull New Year
I expect many of you will be well on the way to counting down for Christmas, depending on your age and circumstances Christmas can mean so many different things. Looking back to my own childhood experiences at Christmas I doubt if they are much different from that of today’s young children, when the excitement is with the opening of the presents, all gaily wrapped in brightly coloured paper on Christmas morning. As we grow up whilst we still enjoy exchanging presents, there is also the anticipation of meeting up with relatives, there is the Christmas lunch where you begin to wonder if the table will take the strain of the huge turkey and all that veg. Christmas is a time when we seem to overdo almost everything, the gifts the food the parties. However, there will also be some within our communities who spend Christmas on their own, Christmas then becomes a lonely time of year.
In the church we can seem to be overdoing things with fund raising events and extra services that we hold. During Advent, the four Sundays leading up to Christmas, we start to look forward to and think about the birth of Jesus. If we take some time to consider the birth of Jesus in such humble conditions. We may think it strange all this effort and extravagance that goes into celebrating the birth of a child that took place more than 2000 years ago. But then even at Jesus birth there seems to be some extravagance with the gifts of Gold, Frankincense and Mire, each one a valuable gift that was given to the infant Jesus with its own significance pointing to who Jesus is, can seem so remote from the manger in the stable.
But all this extravagance does not even begin to compare with the extravagance that is wrapped up in that bundle of Joy of the baby Jesus, here we have the most extravagant gift of all the gift of God’s only son who was born into an ordinary family. This is a gift that we can all celebrate this Christmas, The Gospel of John sums up the importance of the gift of Jesus as he writes “For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
So no matter how extravagant you may think your gifts are this Christmas they do not compare with the extravagant gift that came down on that first Christmas night. A gift that was given for all humankind. Freely given, a gift that if accepted by everyone will bring peace on earth, and hope for all.
Graham P Miles
November starts as a time of remembering. With All Saints Day traditionally in the Catholic Tradition being a day when all saint who have gone to heaven are celebrated. All saints day is also marked in the Methodist calendar, but most people when thinking about November and remembrance look towards November 11th as a day when we remember those who have died we remember those who gave their life in the service of this country. For some who are personally affected by the ravages of war with the death of a father, husband, partner, or son or daughter this time of year can be particularly difficult. Many years ago I knew a church organist whose husband died in the Second World War. For her this time of year brings it all back as if it was only yesterday when she received the telegram notifying her that her husband had died serving his country. Her grief was that great that even though her husband had died 50 years or so earlier she could not face going out of the home, she was even reluctant to answer the door preferring her own company as she remembered what was and what could have been.
There are veterans from the Second World War who have met their former foes as part of their reconciliation which has created friendships where none would have thought it possible. There are also veterans who find it impossible to forgive; their memories of what happened carry so much pain, their suffering as if it was only yesterday.
We know only too well that war does not always have a happy outcome, and indeed with current and recent conflicts around the world today, where our own armed forces are involved, we read about death and serious injury involving loss of limb. It is then that we realise the sacrifice others pay to secure a peaceful future for all our sakes.
One of the questions that is often asked in the face of suffering is, where is God when people are suffering?
To find the answer we need to look to the cross, where Christ died. When Christ was arrested, mocked and then whipped we need to take into account that it was God who was arrested, mocked and whipped, just as it was God who was nailed to the cross. Just as God was in Christ in all of his suffering God is there in each one who is suffering. Through the incarnation we learn that God has taken his creation seriously, we learn that God is willing to share our human nature to the full. In this we see a God who is not distant. Rather we see a God who empathises with our suffering as he understands our suffering. God does not remove himself from what we experience; he shares in our experience through love. It is not so much that Christ will relieve or remove suffering but that he is “with us always, to the end of the time” (Matthew 28:20)
Dear All at Skegness
When I worked in industry there were times when there seemed to be constant change, this could be due to a range of influences. Because of the changes a phrase was often jokingly quoted. “If things don’t change, they will stay as they are”.
We live in an ever-changing world, at times the changes can be so rapid that we struggle to keep up with them, or we do not interpret the changes and what the implications can mean for each of us. It was about 15 years or so ago I was at a district synod where there was a guest speaker talking about climate change, and the effects of global warming. 15 years later the prophetic words of the speaker are becoming a reality, with different weather patterns, forest fires and the shrinking of the polar icecaps.
Change can come from other influences, during the past 18 months we have all experienced change that has affected how we work, live and worship. During this time, we have discovered different ways to shop, work, and indeed worship. We have lived in isolation and that for some has brought its own difficulties as in our humanity we thrive in our fellowship and connection with each other. This is no more so than in our worship, where we can once again meet and join in with singing in church, second to the loss of the ability to meet in person during worship has been the sense of loss of the social side of life coffee morning and similar activities.
The make up of the Circuit will be changing this September as we go from three Presbyters to two Presbyters, where the pastoral oversight of the circuit will be shared between Rev. Mark and myself. I will have oversight of Burgh le Marsh, Chapel St Leonards, Huttoft, Mablethorpe, Orby, Skegness, Sutton on Sea, Thorpe Fendyke, Trusthorpe and Wainfleet. Which will no doubt make life interesting.
There is change happening in our churches as activities that came to an abrupt end in March 2020 are now resuming, although some will be in a slightly different format. As we rise to the challenge of starting afresh specifically for Skegness the activities will be
The Friday Morning Coffee Mornings which have resumed with the first one held on 6th August. This included a short service.
I will be holding an open Manse /Gardens on Saturday 21st August 10:00am to 2:00pm please feel free to drop in for a chat and a cuppa.
The first Mid-week communion service is on Wednesday 8th September at 2:00pm it is hoped that these will continue monthly
Wednesday 15th September sees the start of the mid-week fellowship where I will be sharing some of the insights I gained during my recent sabbatical.
If you are not able to attend any of the church events and would like a visit from me please feel free to call and I will arrange to drop in
26th April 2021
MESSAGE FROM THE OFFICE
Well Graham is shortly due to finish his sabbatical and will be back in harness from Wednesday 5th May. We hope he is refreshed from his break, has enjoyed his period of study and is geed up and raring to go!
We now look forward to the next relaxation of covid restrictions in May, and if it is safe to do so, it would be nice to think that would allow us to meet more closely again in church AND SING! Sadly, I think we may have to wait until June for that to happen.
Many of us have returned to church on Sunday and are enjoying taking part in worship. For those still shielding, please find services for you to read in the quiet of your homes during the Sundays in May.
Graham returning to work and the Easter story of Jesus returning from the grave to encourage and inspire his disciples makes me look forward to the end of lockdown and being able to take up our own mantle of evangelism, however that may be: meeting people again and through the way we portray ourselves, sharing God’s love with everyone we meet.
I am particularly looking forward to serving with the Caravan Chaplaincy Team when we can get onto caravan sites, walking round, talking to people, strangers, and offering support or a shoulder to cry on if that is what’s needed. Jesus sent his disciples out to every town and place with the charge ‘let your greeting of peace remain with them’.
May God’s peace remain with you and all those you love and meet.
God Bless – Stay Safe
Neil & Sue Baxter
26th March 2021
MESSAGE FROM THE OFFICE
So here we are, almost at the end of Lent when traditionally, we are supposed to give something up, but as we have been in a state of ‘lock down’ for a year now, we have already had to give a lot up.
Graham, having taken his sabbatical with a view to visiting New Orleans to undertake a project to see how the slave trade, food and music, particularly jazz were inter connected, has had to cancel the trip but I understand he is still undertaking the project through the internet and, would you believe, by reading books!
I guess you could say we have given up going to church and so I hope you have found the short form services useful. They do in fact, give you the opportunity to enjoy what I like to call ‘me time’. You can sit down on your own, maybe on a Sunday morning, read the services and reflect.
We can feel guilty taking me time, time on our own, instead of doing things useful, but don’t forget, Jesus did. We read many times in the bible that Jesus went to a quiet place to be alone – alone with His thoughts and prayers. If He can do it, so can we and not feel guilty, but hopefully, feel as if our batteries have been recharged.
But now, many of our churches are re-opening and we will be able to meet together again to worship, albeit for the time being, still under Covid restrictions and recharge our batteries in a different way. For those of you who are still shielding or if your church has not yet re-opened, please find enclosed services for the Sundays of April and I hope you enjoy your me time reading them and recharging your batteries.
God Bless & Stay Safe
Neil & Sue Baxter
3rd March 2021
In the absence of Rev Graham on his sabbatical, welcome to a message from the church office instead of the manse.
Firstly, I know many of you appreciate Graham’s short form Sunday services so please find enclosed services for March. Even though we cannot meet together on a Sunday morning, we can all read these at 10.30 on a Sunday and share them in spirit together.
It’s good to see an improvement in the weather and the spring flowers and buds on the trees coming through – spring is breaking forth and it makes us look forward to barbecues.
However, at this time, we have entered lent, a time of fasting when we think of giving things up, of making sacrifices and being generous to others less fortunate than ourselves.
Sue & I read Richard Holden’s message in last weeks St Matthew’s newsletter where he posted a message for lent from the Pope which we would like to share with you.
“Fast from hurting words and say kind words.
Fast from sadness and be filled with gratitude.
Fast from anger and be filled with patience.
Fast from pessimism and be filled with hope.
Fast from worries and trust in God.
Fast from complaints; contemplate simplicity.
Fast from pressures and be prayerful.
Fast from bitterness and fill your hearts with joy.
Fast from selfishness and be compassionate.
Fast from grudges and be reconciled.
Fast from words; be silent and listen.”
Enjoy and benefit from your fasting whether it be from sugar and chocolate or deeper things.
And so it looks like we can soon reopen our church and get back to normal. We would like to think we could all hold services on Easter Sunday but we will continue to follow guidelines.
In the meantime, take care of yourselves, look out for others you know who need your support and stay safe.
Neil & Sue Baxter.
1st February 2021
Welcome to another message from the manse.
Looking out of the study window this morning everything is white as we have had a good frost overnight. Although we are still in the middle of winter, with the days lengthening there is the promise of spring around the corner. When I walk round the garden, I can see signs of new life, the rhubarb planted last year is just beginning to poke its head above the soil. There is the promise of new life with the magnolia tree next door in bud. As Christians we have celebrated the birth of Christ with Lent and Easter next on the diaries, a time of reflection, penitence and Life coming through the death and resurrection of Christ. In addition to the usual weekly devotional sheets, I have included a sheet for use during Lent with a scripture reading, prayer and a simple activity to help as we journey through Lent.
As you are aware from Monday 1st Feb I will be on sabbatical, Neil Baxter has kindly offered to provide the weekly readings whilst I am ‘away’. If you do have any pastoral concerns, please feel free to contact Revd Mark Sherman.
I look forward to the summer when hopefully things will be getting back to ‘normal’, although we need to consider what should be the new normal. There has been varying degrees of success with online and telephone services. These letters have enabled me to keep in contact with everyone, the weekly worship sheets have been well received especially by some who are unable to get to church regularly. It would be helpful for me to know if you would like the letters, with some worship material, to continue when we are back to ‘normal’.
Keep safe and God bless,
06 January 2021
January can seem a busy month as we start with Epiphany on 6th January, usually we hold our covenant services. Traditionally the week of prayer is held in January from 18th to 25th although it is an octave as the week is from St Peter and St Paul Saints days. Each year there are resources produced for the week of prayer for Christian Unity. There is a trend for the week of prayer for Christian Unity to be held around Pentecost which is viewed as the birthday of the Church. Christian Unity can take many different forms, for some it is when two or more denominations come together under one roof to share in worship and fellowship sometimes called Local Ecumenical Partnerships. Newent in Gloucestershire is an example of Anglicans, Baptists and Methodists joining together in the Anglican church where there is shared worship from each Denomination. At Orby there has been bimonthly afternoon services by the Methodist Church in the parish church of All Saints. Christian Unity can be marked by different church groups coming together to help in practical matters, food banks are one example of how churches work together for the benefit of the local community. There are also many informal gatherings from getting together for a chat over tea or coffee to house fellowships/bible study groups. Christian unity is where Christians come together in whatever shape and form whether is formal worship to the less formal coffee and chats.
Resources for the week of prayer and for lent can be obtained from Churches Together in Britain and Ireland.
I will be on Sabbatical from February 1st until May 4th, covid-19 restrictions has meant that my plans have been revised as I will now be home based. Sabbaticals are a gift from the Methodist Church for Presbyters and Deacons, they are meant to be a time of renewal and refreshment. During this time, we are encouraged to look at some aspects of church and spirituality as well as spending time other activities. On my return from sabbatical there may be a possibility of restrictions being lifted which will enable face to face contact where I can share insights gained on Sabbatical.
I hope to distribute any worship material for February before going on sabbatical.
Sabbatical is a time when I am not available for Church duties. If there are any needs the first point of contact should be a church steward, if its important please contact Revd. Mark Sherman, either by telephone 01507 603402 or email firstname.lastname@example.org or the circuit administrator telephone 01507 354626 email email@example.com
Meanwhile keep safe and God bless
29th December 2020
I hope you have all had a good Christmas, speaking for ourselves we had hoped to see our daughter and her family over the Christmas period, but with the travel restrictions this was not to be for this year. Christmas was different for us, after taking the Christmas day service at Mablethorpe I headed home where we opened our presents before packing a small picnic to take down to the sea front Amos came along too. The weather was wonderful, sunny with a breeze coming from the west. We sat with some folk from Spilsby at a safe distance, chatting with our temporary neighbours.
We are now preparing for the New Year, we hope and pray that things will return to ‘normal’ what ever normal is for us. It is also the time of year when we sing one of Wesley’s Hymns written for the new year, it was originally published in a penny tract, Hymns for the New Year 1749, its one of those Hymns that has stood the test of time and can be found in Hymns & Psalms 354, and Singing the Faith 460, I put it at the bottom of this letter. As with Wesley’s hymns when you read through it you can find references to scripture. With this hymn we are reminded of how short a time we have on earth, we are also reminded that life moves on and just as an arrow takes flight on its own path when released and cannot be changed. We cannot change what has already been set in motion, this pandemic is a reminder of that, but we can look to the future with hope on our hearts, as we are reminded that when Christ came into our broken world he brought with him Hope for everyone.
The New Year is also the time we hold our Covenant Services, in this mailing I have included a Covenant Service for those of you who are shielding. The Covenant Service is one that is unique to Methodism and has formed part of our yearly liturgy since the time of John Wesley. Within the Covenant Service we are reminded of God’s Grace, since the dawn of creation God has sought a personal relationship with humankind in which God promises to be our God. Unfortunately, the relationship has been broken many times because of humankind’s sinful nature, but God has constantly sought ways to make an everlasting covenant this culminated in the birth of Jesus Christ. For our part as Methodists each year we remind ourselves of the Covenant relationship we have with God. Usually, we hold the Covenant Service at the start of the New Year, the Covenant Service can also be held at the start of the Methodist connexional new year which is September.
I have included another service sheet for the 10 January, where the reading is from the Gospel of and tells of Christs Baptism by John the Baptist. Which marked the start of Jesus’s ministry here on earth. I will send more out in a few weeks.
Looking forward to a Happy New Year
Come, let us anew
Our journey pursue
Roll round with the year,
And never stand still till the Master appear
His adorable will
Let us gladly fulfil,
And our talents improve,
By the patience of hope and the labour of love
Our life is a dream,
Our time as a stream
Glides swiftly away,
And the fugitive moment refuses to stay.
The arrow is flown,
The moment is gone;
The millennial year
Rushes on to our view, and eternity’s here.
O that each in the day
Of his coming may say:
‘I have fought my way through,
I have finished the work that you gave me to do!’
O that each from his Lord
May receive the glad word:
‘well and faithfully done;
Enter into my joy, and sit down on my throne!.
09 December 2020
As we all prepare for a Christmas that will be different from those of previous years, there will not be any large family gatherings this year. Gaynor came back from a trip along Lumley Road she remarked it seemed strange to see all the shops open following the recent lock-down. Covid-19 restrictions has meant there will not be the carol services where the church seems to be full. At the centre of our Christmas celebrations the message is the same now as it was last year and the year before that ever since we started to celebrate the birth of our Lord Jesus. During this advent period we remember the prophets, John the Baptist who pointed people towards Jesus, and Mary who was obedient to the call she received, a call could have led to her premature death as was the culture of the day. It’s a reminder that what ever adversity we face in our calling God is with us.
You will find more in this package than usual as I have included all worship material taking us up to the end of the year, including one for Christmas day.
In addition to the printed worship material, East Lincs Circuit will be putting on a Zoom 9 lessons and carols service this Sunday afternoon 13th December. Those who can access this should have the link emailed to them if not email me. I will forward it to you.
On Wednesday 16th December at 2:30 there will be a carol service at Algitha Road, this will give you an opportunity to meet with friends to hear some familiar carols and to once again hear those familiar passages which tell of the mystery of the incarnation. As some of you are shielding a DVD is being produced so that you can watch this at home. The DVD is the same as the service in the Chapel which is held within Covid-19 guidelines hence a slightly shorter carol service of 6 lessons and carols.
For church members I have included their membership cards and a small booklet provide by the Methodist Church.
During this pandemic the East Lincs circuit has been thinking about the churches and the people in the churches, as a reminder that you are in the thoughts of the circuit a Christmas card has been produced which you will find contained in this pack.
Hoping we all have a very happy Christmas as we celebrate the birth of our lord. Let us start the New Year with optimism that Covid-19 will be eradicated with the distribution of vaccines that 2021 will be a better year than 2020.
1st December 2020
We look to be coming out of lockdown this week where will move into a higher tier than when we were put in lockdown, this just reflects the concerns about the pandemic in this area. We have also been advised that this Christmas will be very different to how we celebrated Christmas in the past.
Traditionally Christmas is viewed by many as being a busy part of the year, we spend many hours preparing for Christmas, and there are cakes and puddings to make, as we prepare a feast for what seems like a multitude of visitors. We can look forward expectantly to welcoming our relatives or we visit them. One aspect of Christmas this year that has been receiving plenty of attention is family gatherings. We are told that our family gatherings should not be as large as previous years. The importance of families being together over the Christmas festivities has been the subject of films and novels, where the hero battles through harsh weather conditions with the odds seemed to be stacked against them as they struggle to be together at Christmas.
Christmas is a time of looking forward in hope, over 2000 years ago the people of Israel were looking forward in hope as they waited for signs of their new king. Signs that some missed, and some recognised. One of the Advent Hymns that springs to mind is “O come, O come, Immanuel, and ransom captive Israel”. The captivity in the hymn refers to Israel being under Roman occupation at the time of Jesus birth, this was the reason Joseph and Mary had to travel to Bethlehem because the Roman authorities had ordered a census, people had to travel to the town of their birth to register. Throughout this time and before one thing that helped the Jews was the promise of the Messiah, they were living in hope.
We are not being held in captivity by an occupying foreign army, rather the pandemic which has swept across the world seems to be controlling what we do. As I write this we are coming to the end of the second ‘lockdown’ which we hope has helped reduce the effects of Covid-19, we are hoping to be in a position to meet with relatives at Christmas, and there is the hope on the horizon that a vaccine is being manufactured that will enable life to return to some form of normality.
Hopefully by the summer we can return to normal worship in our chapels. This Christmas our ability to sing those familiar carols together is not happening. I hope to provide you with devotional material to help you in your celebrations this Christmas, I also anticipate the provision of carol services on television and radio, although it’s not the same as joining with friends we will be able to give thanks for the miracle which happened on that first Christmas morning from the safety of our homes.
17th November 2020
We are approaching advent with next Sunday 22nd November as the Sunday before advent which is marked in the lectionary as Christ the King, is also called ‘Stir up Sunday’. For many this acts as a reminder to make the Christmas pudding, although if you are like me that was made a few months ago and is now maturing in the cupboard. However, the meaning takes its name from the first line of the Anglican Book of Common Prayer Collect for this Sunday; -
Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people; that they, plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works, may of thee be plenteously rewarded; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
As this is the last Sunday of the lectionary year these words are meant to get us moving in a spiritual way, I look up on this as a preparation for advent, to stir us up to start looking towards preparing for the celebration of the birth of Jesus. The shops and television adverts have already started us thinking about Christmas. We are looking towards a Christmas which will be different from previous years in many ways. It will be a time spent away from loved ones to protect them and us from the coronavirus. There will not be as many services, and if they are allowed there will not be the usual enthusiastic singing of carols as we hear the familiar story of the incarnation. We are beginning to see the glimmer of hope as reports of vaccines have been developed and will be ready for next year, with the prediction that if all goes well we could be getting back to normal by the spring time.
Over 2000 years ago in Israel the Jews were looking for a King to bring them hope and freedom from the tyranny of Roman occupation. That King came in the incarnation of Jesus the hope of the world, although it did not happen in the way that they were looking or thinking about. We know that God is for us as he has always been for us, if that were not so there would not have been a birth in a stable in Bethlehem some 2000 years ago. Through the incarnation we have God here amongst us. The song written by Joan Osborne asks the question ‘what if God was one of us.’ In answer to that question we know that God was one of us and had the name of Jesus who walked among us experiencing what it was like to be human. The experience of knowing and encountering a living God did not end on the cross at Golgotha. Through the power of the Holy Spirit we can still encounter God, we can still know a personal God. Over the coming weeks I will be sharing resources with you to help you encounter the living God.
For those with internet here is a link to Joan Osborne singing what if God was one of us
By now you will all be aware of the latest news from the government as we enter another lockdown from November 5th which will last until December 2nd when it will be reviewed. As part of the lockdown is the closure of churches for worship except for opening for funerals and private prayer. I will be resuming the letters along with worship material for use in the home.
On Monday Morning this week the first minister of Wales, Mark Drakeford, was interviewed by the BBC about the lockdown and the speculation that is involved around what we should do. He said, we should not be asking what we should do, we need to ask what can we do to help bring the virus under control.
Next Sunday 8th November, being the nearest Sunday to November 11th is the day we remember those who gave their lives in two World Wars and subsequent wars since a time to remember and to give thanks. Most of the Remembrance Day services with parades had already been cancelled. We will now be remembering those who fought and died and those who were affected by war in our own homes, to help you in this I have enclosed devotional material for November 8th which can be used on November 11th. I have also included worship material for the following Sunday 15th November. As always more will follow.
In the meantime, stay safe.
To all at Algitha Road
12 months ago I was surrounded with boxes as we began to settle into our new Manse, we were looking forward to the welcome service at Wainfleet All Saints which would mark the start of my ministry amongst you in Skegness. Then would begin the process of putting faces to names as I gradually got to know you and you got to know me. With the pandemic came the Lockdown from March 23 with those over 70 and those who received a letter from the government needing to shield which put a hold on everything. We had to discover a new way of life, relying on friends and neighbours to go shopping for us or discovering how to shop ‘online’. Thankfully, we seem to be over the worse of the pandemic, although the government advice is still for social distancing and keeping safe which looks like the pandemic along keeping safe will be around for some time.
The good news is that the church will be re-opening for worship on Sunday 6th September. The church has been prepared for worship following government guidelines with an emphasis on keeping you safe, please see attached information sheet for the guidelines that will need to be followed to keep everyone safe.
21st July 2020
Message from the Manse
To all at Skegness
Welcome to another message from the manse, I have posted to you material for the forth coming weeks along with a service booklet for the circuit service taking place on 26th July at 2:00pm on Zoom.
Re-opening of the church for worship,
I have been in discussion with the Stewards regarding resuming Sunday Worship following lockdown. When we do resume our services, it will be in line with Government and Methodist Church Guidelines to provide as far as possible a safe worship environment.
This will mean a different worship experience from when we last met together in the church in March.
Chairs will be positioned at 2 metre intervals, a one way system is likely to be in place with hand gel to use on entering and leaving church. When we conducted a rough measure of the church to maintain 2 Metre social distancing means that there will only be sufficient seating for 12 in the church, we are in the process of considering of temporally installing a speak system in the adjacent room to use as an overflow from the church. Whilst this is not an ideal situation it will mean that we can accommodate around 24 or so for worship on a Sunday morning.
The measures we will be putting in place to enable us to return to church for worship will need the approval of the managing trustees of the church, the church council, for that reason we will be holding an extraordinary church council on Wednesday 12th August at 2:00pm in the church hall. If you come along to the meeting a steward will be available to direct you to where to sit, at all times we will be following strict Covid-19 guidelines in order to keep everyone safe, if you feel comfortable with a face covering please feel free to wear one.
If you do have any questions, please contact me or one of the stewards who will be only too pleased to speak to you about this.
23rd June 2020
A message from the Manse
This may seem like waiting for a bus, you wait and then three turn up, I have not sent any messages for a few weeks then you receive one every week for three weeks, this is because from the 26th June I will be taking 2 weeks annual leave, although this will be with a slight difference as most of the time I will be at home. During this period, I will not be responding to emails or answering the phone. If you need to contact someone urgently, please contact our Superintendent Revd. Mark Sherman
Tel 01507 603402
Circuit Service 28th June at 2:00pm
Following the success of the circuit Pentecost service on Zoom there is another circuit service this Sunday 28th June, you can access this service either with the internet or using one of the phone numbers provided below then entering the Meeting ID followed by the password when prompted.
Dial by your location
0203 481 5240 United Kingdom
0131 460 1196 United Kingdom
0203 051 2874 United Kingdom
0203 481 5237 United Kingdom
Meeting ID: 824 3244 9117
Latest from the government regarding Churches reopening.
As I have been writing this Mr Johnson has been speaking about lifting restrictions on the reopening of churches amongst other businesses, however before the decision can be made by the Churches, we need to await guidance from Connexion and District.
News from Connexion, District and Circuit
This week sees the opening of the Methodist Conference over Zoom, the first time this has happened.
Circuit Meeting News: from the meeting on 18th June 2020 extracted from the East Lincs Link
This was held over the internet using Zoom.
• Following much discussion in CLT about the difficult financial situation many chapels find themselves in and issues with meeting the assessment, the Circuit Invitation Committee met via Zoom on the 10th June and reluctantly decided that the Circuit could not financially continue to sustain 3 presbyters. They therefore recommended that we do not enter the stationing process this year as would have happened given that Rev Phil Greetham’s extension comes to an end in 2021. This was agreed by the Circuit Meeting. Prayer and discussions will continue as to how pastoral ministry will be organised, but lay pastors are one possibility. Mark will take on Withern and Alford and Graham Phil’s other churches. Please pray for Phil and Glenda as they seek God’s will for the future, and for the Circuit as we find our way forward.
17th June 2020
Church reopening update
It’s only a week since I sent the last ‘message from the manse’.
There is a considerable amount of work that needs to be completed before the churches can be ready to reopen, reading through the Re-opening of Buildings Checklist which is produced by the Methodist Church is very comprehensive, which covers everything that needs to be done from airing the building to completely flushing all the water as that’s been standing in the pipes for 3 month to checking the heating and electric circuits. That is before we consider the precautions that need to be in place to allow worship to take place, some of which come under the Covid-19 risk assessment that will need to be completed, which included the government requirement for hand cleaning stations, people to keep a safe distance from each other at the time of writing this is 2 metres, as an example of the difference that makes to how many we can get in the church. Skegness Chapel was measured, where under ‘normal’ conditions we could comfortably seat around 50, this number under current social distancing rules is reduced to around 12. There is the need to ensure that the church is cleaned before and after use.
It is for those reasons along with other considerations that we are still not in a position to open the churches, however I will continue with the ‘message from the manse’ and worship material, as well as keeping you informed with what’s happening throughout the circuit and further afield in Methodism.
09th June 2020
A message from the Manse
I have been looking back to when the coronavirus lockdown started on 23rd March, things have certainly changed since then. Whilst we have been told we can spend more time outdoors the message remains the same that we need to be alert, alert to those around us, I would also add keep alert to the news. Hopefully we have started on the long path back to normality, although some of this will depend on what happens over the next few weeks. When I have been chatting around the churches, I have found a whole range of emotions where some are looking forward to the churches reopening and on the opposite end some are concerned about the reopening of churches.
From the circuit
Following the positive feed back after the Circuit service on Zoom on Pentecost Sunday 31st May, it has been decided to hold another Circuit Service on Zoom on 28th June at 2:00pm. This is a great opportunity for you to join in with the circuit in worship, details will follow.
From District and Connexion
Later on this month the Methodist Conference will meet on Zoom, albeit with a paired down agenda, which will include stationing. Please pray for those ministers and circuits where there is change this year, there will not be the opportunity for the churches and the ministers to say their farewells, and there may not be the opportunity for welcome services to take place
Re-opening of churches for private prayer.
As part of the governments plan to get things up and running again, churches will be allowed to reopen for private prayer from Monday 15th June. For this to happen there would need to be various precautions in place which includes completing a checklist for the reopening of church buildings and a Covid-19 risk assessment. Although I am not aware of any of the Methodist churches being left open for private prayer prior to the lockdown on 23rd March. Perhaps something to look at in the future.
Re-opening of churches for worship after July4th
The next major change in coming out of lockdown happens on July 4th when the Government proposes to allow churches to open for worship, amongst a host of other areas being allowed to open. This is provisional and dependent on the 5 markers that the government has set being met. I have been holding telephone meetings with the stewards of each church where we have discussed when to reopen the churches for worship. There has been some prayerful consideration as to when this can take place, along with the stewards consulting church members. Following a second telephone conference with the stewards the decision has reluctantly been made not to open the church for worship on Sunday 5th July. When it is felt appropriate to open the church for worship everyone will be informed.
Southern Cluster get together
You may recall that I have spoken about a get together of the churches under my pastoral oversight in the southern Cluster of the Circuit on Saturday 18th July. As we will in all likelihood still be having to maintain social distancing, I feel that is something that needs to be postponed until such time when there is no social distancing requirement.
Reflection on Luke 14:25-33
In this part of Luke’s Gospel, we find Jesus talking about the cost of discipleship, with the need to plan ahead and consider all that is involved. As we look to the future, we look at what’s happening now, and what happened before Lockdown. I think that in a few years’ time we will look back at this as a defining time in the history of humankind, we might even refer to it as Before Lockdown (BL) and post Lockdown (PL). As the world gradually moves towards PL it’s a time to reflect on what is church, what we did before and as we gradually move to reopening what can we do to improve on things in a Post lockdown era. Connexion, Districts and Circuits are discovering the benefits of online meetings, I have discovered the benefit of telephone conference meeting with the church stewards, some circuits have virtual coffee mornings on the telephone and telephone bible study. This does not compensate for face to face meetings, but it will no doubt become part of everyday life as some of the benefits outweigh the disadvantages.
I Look forward to the day when we can all meet face to face
19th May 2020
Greeting to you all
I hope you all managed to spend some time on Friday 8th May thinking about and remembering
the events of 75 years ago when victory in Europe was declared. In Skegness we marked the
day as best we could, we did hear some music playing locally around 4:00pm, I think there
was a group having a street party nearby where each family had a tea party in their front
gardens, for me it was a time of giving thanks that Peace had once again found its place in
Europe. It was an opportunity to remember all those who lost their lives during the war, along
with those whose lives were damaged by the war.
You will find the usual reflections for use on Sundays, the readings and reflections for 24th
May has been provided from an online Methodist resource, this material is made available
throughout the connexion, as you read through this on Sunday 24th you will be joining with
others from across the country. The following Sunday 31st May will be Pentecost, the material
provided for this Sunday will be in a slightly different format, as it will be a full order including
hymns of a service that the circuit will be transmitting via Zoom at 3:00pm. Information will
be emailed to those whose email addresses I have nearer the date. If you do not have internet
access, or you may prefer not to use the internet for Zoom, the full-service sheet is provided
with this mailing. This is not as prefect as joining together to celebrate what we think of as
the universal church birthday, we can at least join together in worship if not physically we will
be together in spirit.
Finally, I have included the service sheet for 7th June which is Trinity Sunday which has been
provided by the Methodist church, again people throughout the connexion will be using this
for worship in their own homes.
As you are aware the lockdown that we are in has been eased slightly as part of stage one of
the governments easing of restrictions. During the past weekend we have noticed more traffic
noise along with some of the sea front kiosks opening for business. The local park has seen a
greater footfall, the good news is that people are getting out to enjoy the open air on this first
stage towards things returning to what we consider normal. Amongst the easing has been a
proposed date of 4th July when Churches can reopen for worship which is stage three of the
easing of restrictions. There may still be social distancing in place along with extra precautions
that need to take place to ensure that those who wish to attend church for worship are kept
safe. I hope to be able to send to the church stewards guidance on opening the churches. The
decision to open the church will depend on government guidance alongside being able to ensure all conditions are met, and the church feeling confident it can be done in a safe manner.
When we allow the use of church buildings for mid-week activities and other users’ needs to be carefully considered to ensure that the social distancing guidelines are maintained, some activities may need to be on hold for a few more months.
If you do have any concerns, please feel free to call me
In the meantime, keep safe
5th May 2020
As usual this letter accompanies various other items some to help you in your weekly devotions. Just a recap I send this to everyone in the churches under my pastoral oversight as listed in the letterhead. I send this out via email to those able to access it and Royal Mail for others. As the attached reflections take us up to and including Sunday 17th May, I will be sending out the next communication to arrive in time for Thursday 21st May, Ascension Day, amongst them will be additional material for Aldersgate Sunday and Pentecost.
Thinking forward to June 14th which is marked in the Methodist calendar as Methodist Homes for the Aged (MHA) Sunday, a time set aside to think about the work of MHA, and to raise money for the MHA either through envelope giving or special fund raising events. It is also a time when we pray for the work of MHA. This year may prove to be difficult for us to do much for MHA as we do not know when the government will start to lift their restriction. What we are aware of is the amount of loss of life there has been in care homes across the country due to covid-19, last week we were made more aware of what was happening in residential care homes. In my previous circuit I was privileged to be involved with 3 residential care homes, the care homes are tight knit communities. It is in these communities where the care home staff are the front line workers, some have taken up residency in the care home or in a caravan adjacent to the care home so that the care home is kept isolated. MHA rely and benefit from the support they receive from the Methodist Church either financially or practically, please remember the work of MHA in your prayers.
Looking towards the future, we are entering a period of time when some of the restrictions on gatherings and movement are being reviewed, with some restrictions being lifted. Understandably the Government will be taking a cautious approach to this no doubt allowing time between lifting restrictions to monitor the effect on Coronavirus. One method of enabling face to face meetings is Zoom which is a system of video conferencing over the internet, the circuit is using Zoom today to hold a Circuit Leadership meeting.
In the meantime, keep safe
Welcome to the message from the Manse, as we know the government have decided that the lockdown should continue for at least another 3 weeks, the current rules state that there must be a review every 3 weeks. In one sense this can seem frustrating as we find new ways to cope with having to stay within our own homes and gardens apart from a daily walk and shopping or other essential trips out. If during this time you find yourself struggling please feel free to call me or call other members of your church community.
The Circuit is putting together the next preaching plan for June to August in anticipation of the current restrictions being lifted by then, although that may not be the case. We are all in this time of uncertainty, which is affecting travel plans, there is wisdom planning for the times of freer movement so that we are not caught unawares. Gaynor and I have booked two weeks Holiday for the end of June beginning of July, we hope to be able to get away in our caravan during this time but if the travel restrictions are still in place we are thinking about alternative plans.
Looking back to the Easter weekend Skegness was very quiet with all but a few locals who were taking advantage of the sunshine for their daily exercise. The quietness enables us to appreciate some of the finer things of nature, we can hear bird song. One evening Gaynor stood outside after walking Gideon listening to the sea, usually there is background noise so we cannot hear this. On a similar note towns and cities are now experiencing cleaner air as there are less cars on the road, even the sky’s look different as there is not the vapour trails from aircraft, and I heard of one report that said the canals of Venice have become clearer where people can see the fish in them. Nature seems to be recovering from years of abuse, perhaps this is a sign in itself that when the lockdown is lifted, we should not go back to how things
were before. There seems to be a reordering as we discover what is really important, although I have a feeling that deep down we were already aware of what is really important but the current situation has brought us face to face with what is and is not important.
As we are still in the Easter season, I thought I would share a few thoughts with you on the resurrection appearances of Jesus.
Luke 24:13-35 The walk to Emmaus
Two people at the end of the day walking back to their home in Emmaus, talking about what they had seen and what they had heard over the past few days. They were part of the wider circle of followers of Jesus, that is not part of the twelve disciples. They were concerned about what they knew and what they had heard, was it true that Jesus had defied death? Or had someone stolen the body? Any number of
questions would be going through their minds, they we that engrossed in their conversation that they did not see Jesus come alongside them, they were prevented from recognising him. At this point the poem footprints comes to mind where the person is looking back on their life and seeing only one set of footprints through the troubled time of their life and thinking that at those times they were on their own and Jesus had deserted him. Jesus reminded him that it was at those points that Jesus was
carrying him through the difficult times although he was not aware of it. Jesus walked along side those two
troubled souls talking to them easing their minds and setting their minds at rest, giving them a sense of peace. When they arrived at Emmaus with the Jesus making as if to go on, they offered him a place for the night. Hospitality formed a part of the culture of the time, there were no Holiday Inns or such like to find a bed for the night. It was then at Supper that their eyes were opened, and they recognised Jesus.
Footprints In The Sand
There are many different versions of Footprints In The Sand, the version below is what is thought to
be the original poem written by Mary Stevenson
Last night I had a dream. I dreamed I
was walking along the beach
with the Lord. Across the sky flashed
scenes from my life. For each scene,
I noticed two sets of footprints in the
sand: one belonged to me,
the other to the Lord.
After the last scene of my life flashed
before me, I looked back at
the footprints in the sand. I noticed
that at many times along the path of
my life, especially at the very lowest
and saddest times, there was only
one set of footprints.
This really troubled me, so I asked the
Lord about it. "Lord, you
said once I decided to follow you, You'd
walk with me all the way. But I
noticed that during the saddest and
most troublesome times of my life,
there was only one set of footprints. I
don't understand why, when
I needed You the most, You would
The Lord replied, "My son, my precious
child, I love you and I would
never leave you. During your times of
suffering, when you could see
only one set of footprints,
It was then that I carried you."
It would have been easy for Jesus to make himself known as he joined the two on the road to Emmaus, but they would not have had that same conversation as Jesus explained why events happened as they did.
Life can be like that, when something happens it is not until after that we learn the reasons for things happening as they do. We can indeed be struggling with a situation not knowing or understanding why things are happening as they are, we can feel that Jesus is far away. We may be having similar thoughts regarding the current situation that the world is in at this moment with Coronavirus, we could be struggling to find the right answers, through faith we know that God is at work in the background.
John 20:19-23 Jesus appears to his Disciples
We read that it was on the evening of the resurrection that the disciples had gathered in a house,
this was the first time they came together as a group following Jesus death and resurrection.
The early church learnt the importance of meeting together in an intentional way these being
the first intentional communities. When we meet on Sunday it is an intentional community,
where we fellowship over tea/coffee, where we hear about each other’s concerns and can offer
support. It is through the community that we can grow together and become resilient. We are
now in a situation where we are learning how to be community in different ways, keeping in
contact via the internet or phone plays a large part in our new ways of being community. Using
this method of communication where you receive this via email or Royal Mail is my way of
keeping in contact with all of you in the Southern Cluster of Churches. If you have news that
you would like to share amongst the community either church or further afield, I would be
pleased to include it in this mailing that comes out now approximately every two weeks
In the meantime, keep safe.
Holy Week Greetings
Greetings to you during Holy Week, the previous two Messages from the Manse were an attempt to keep everyone in the Southern Cluster informed whilst at the same time proving material to use at home during this difficult time. By using the material provided we can feel connected to our friends from church who will be doing the same as us. I aim to continue in this for the duration of the time we are in “lockdown”, although they may be coming out less frequently say, once every two weeks.
I have included in this mailing, An Easter letter from our Superintendent Minister Revd. Mark Sherman, a prayer card, and a few of my reflections on the resurrection. You have already received a link to the connexion magazine, extracts from the magazine will be printed and posted out to those receiving this via Royal Mail.
Link for Connexion Magazine https://www.methodist.org.uk/media/16619/the-connexion-magazine-issue-18.pdf (Some may have had this delivered, it is full of interesting articles well worth a read. I want to drawer your attention to the article on pages 24,25 which is about the period between Ascension and Pentecost. Which for a number of years has been called Thy Kingdom Come, this year with a theme of praying for 5 people to help you with this there is a prayer journal available.)
Link for Rev Mark Sherman's letter
I have included a prayer card with two prayers on it which I find helpful during this time of uncertainty, on one side is the Methodist Covenant Prayer which is central to the covenant service, on the other side is the Serenity Prayer, by Reinhold Niebuhr, which I find echoes the theme of the covenant prayer. If you find them helpful, please use them.
(the prayer card appears on the worship page of this site - click here)
Reflections on the resurrection
When Mary stood at the tomb in which the body of Jesus had been laid on Friday, the last thing that she expected was to see Jesus standing beside her, despite the fact that Mary along with the rest of the disciples had been told by Jesus more than once that he would rise again on the third day.
One of the reasons that Mary did not recognise Jesus is that it was out of context, she knew that Jesus had died upon the cross, she had seen his body laid to rest in this tomb, there had been a stone rolled over the front of the tomb. The Gospel of Mark (Mark16:3) records the women worrying about the heavy stone rolled across the entrance of the Tomb, as they went to the tomb in the early hours of the morning just as day was breaking, saying to each other “who will roll the stone away for us from the entrance of the tomb.”
There can be a number of reasons that makes it difficult for people to be recognised, a change of hair style or colour, changing the clothes we wear. Wearing contact lenses instead of glasses or wearing glasses when you don’t normally wear them. Seeing people out of their usual situation can mean that it is difficult to recognise them, I have had embarrassing moments when I have been out and about when someone comes up to greet and speak to me, as I speak to them I am searching through my memory as to where I know
them from, is it from one of the churches I have oversight of, or do they go to one of the other
churches in the circuit I have been to, or is it someone I have met elsewhere? I hope that in the
conversation a clue comes up to help me.
We are not told what the difference was in Jesus appearance that made it difficult for Mary to
recognise him. She thought that it was the gardener standing behind her, had she seen the
gardener on a previous occasion? Even from a distance, she no doubt expected a gardener to be
present, where as she did not expect Jesus to be standing behind her. It was only when Jesus
said her name that she realised who it was and the veil of despair had been lifted from her.
Mary went to the garden Tomb not expecting to encounter the risen Jesus, this as much as
anything contributed to her lack of recognising Jesus. Mary was not looking for Jesus in the living
sense. When we go about our daily business whether its work, rest or recreation, whether we are
in the green grocers or supermarket, or opening the door at home to an unknown visitor, whatever
we do we need to do it with the expectation of seeing Jesus. By going about our daily business
with the expectation of meeting our risen Lord, we will find it easier to recognise Jesus, in the
hands of the hairdresser, in the eyes of the stranger on our doorstep.
During these strange times we are seeing and hearing of people who are going out of their way to
help others less fortunate, neighbours offering to do the shopping, hospital and care home staff
having to work in a difficult contagious environment, others going about their daily work from those
on the farm to transport workers and factory workers. Just as Mary eventually recognised who it
was standing next to her so it is that we are seeing the value in the people around us