28 April 2020
When I wrote to you in our annual report last year, I concluded my greeting like this: We need to build some slowing – down time into our lives; both as individuals and as churches. Then we can listen to the quiet whispers of God. Slowing down is a vital part of the spiritual journey. Then we can stop panicking about when we’re going to come off the rails and start noticing the fascinating countryside we’re traveling through. Promise yourself some space to do anything or nothing. Slow down. Stop. You may find Someone Special waiting to meet you.
Little did I know then, that the world would be brought to a much slower pace through Covid19. This pandemic brought us all to a standstill, forcing us to change our normal way of doing things.
I’ve always wanted to have more time with my family, to do more gardening and exercise and to read more. Well, suddenly I have the time to do that. And it’s been such a blessing. I am getting to know my family better. I am seeing my garden being transformed (and my hands feeling rougher too). And I am escaping into the world of my books. I urge you to use this time to do those things that you’ve struggled to find the time for.
But the most precious thing for me now is the space I have to spend time with God. I must admit that the past year was so busy. I had to learn so many new things. This has left me very tired at times – and I then compromised on spending time with God. I am thankful that I have the space and time now to read the Scriptures and to reflect on them (without necessarily having to prepare a sermon). As a result I have started to write short prayers in the morning. I have tweeted these and also posted them on Facebook. My prayer for each of you is that you will find the space in your day to read the Scriptures, to reflect on them and to pray. I have deliberately started using the daily readings in the Methodist Prayer Handbook. As I read them every day, I feel a sense of connectedness with others, knowing that I am not the only one reading them that day. There is a really good Bible Study Application for this if you’d like to use it: https://www.methodist.org.uk/our-faith/the-bible/a-word-in-time/
I also want you to know that I am using the Membership List to pray for a few people every day. You are mentioned by name in my daily prayers.
I have been made aware of some House Groups in the Circuit that have found new and innovative ways of “meeting” to do Bible Study. Some use Zoom, others use WhatsApp or conference calls. I want to encourage you to find ways in which you can study the Scriptures with others during this time. An easy way would be to use the weekly Sunday readings as a basis for your Bible Study. As always, be safe and keep others safe as you use technology to do this.
It’s been so encouraging to receive many telephone calls, emails, handwritten letters, texts, WhatsApp messages and Facebook messages. Some of these have simply been to check if I’m OK. Others have been to express gratitude to the ministerial team for the online resources and posted service sheets. Someone described the online resources as a “God-send”. I am so grateful to all of you who help to ensure that the resources reach others every week and to the Team, learning new skills and preparing each week. Paul Deakin has been a brilliant help with our website in this regard. Thank you!
Thanks to Dawn Smith, our Facebook Page has now become a platform for a weekly reading club and coffee morning. It is really heartwarming to see how you all interact across the circuit on this specific platform. I also hear that folk at Great Billing use the telephone to sing hymns together and WhatsApp for prayer meetings. The many pastoral friends across the circuit continue to keep contact with those in their groups. Please continue to check on one another (in whichever way you find helpful) and encourage each other during this time (and let us know of specific prayer needs). Some churches have WhatsApp Groups where they chat daily. I am fortunate to be part of some groups and feel so blessed to be able to experience the love and care in those conversations daily.
Sadly, we cannot do any hospital visits. But I have contact with the Chaplain there. He has been such a great help to us. Please let me know if there is someone who needs a visit and I will ask the Chaplain to do so.
I wonder if you can begin to think with me – what would be the first hymn or song that we can sing when we meet again. Someone suggested the other day that our first service should be an Easter Service. What do you think?
I’m so aware that some of our fold have already gone to be with Jesus during this time. Our circle may not be complete when we meet again. Our prayers are with their families.
I look forward to seeing you again and to hear of your encounters with God…when we all slowed down. Be safe my friends.