December - January
The nights are certainly darker now and winter is drawing upon us. The forecasts indicate that it won’t be too long before we have the first frost and, although as I write this there are still leaves upon the trees, I am sure it will not be long before they have fallen. As much of nature at this time of year in this country seems to slow down and hibernate, our response to Advent and Christmas seems to be one of direct contrast and of busyness, in what seems to be almost constant activity. The demands and pressures of life today seem to become ever more frenetic and this is particularly highlighted during this season.
I wonder whether we might be able to commit ourselves during Advent to find some-time of quiet reflection allowing ourselves the opportunity to spend time with God as we read Scripture and pray and ponder on the awesome reality of God with Us – Immanuel, when:
‘The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.’
On behalf of Denise, myself and our family I send you our greetings and pray that you will know the love and peace of Christ this Advent, Christmas and through the New Year:
Master of both light and darkness, send your Holy Spirit upon our preparations for Christmas,
We who have so much to do seek quiet spaces to hear your voice each day.
We who are anxious over many things look forward to your coming among us.
We who are blessed in so many ways long for the complete joy of your kingdom.
We whose hearts are heavy seek the joy of your presence.
We are your people, walking in darkness, yet seeking the light.
To you we say “Come Lord Jesus”.
When you hear reference to the ‘Methodist Circuit’ I wonder what that phrase means to you. The Methodist Church website helpfully explains:
‘The circuit is normally a group of churches served by a team of ministers. Occasionally there are circuits with only one minister. A minister will have pastoral charge of one or more churches, but will preach and lead worship in different local churches in the circuit, along with local preachers. The arrangements for leading worship in a circuit are drawn up in a quarterly Plan. The circuit is led by the superintendent minister who presides over the circuit staff (both lay and ordained) and the circuit meeting, and with lay and ordained colleagues facilitates and encourages mission throughout the circuit. He or she is also responsible for drawing up the Plan and arranging the gathering of information about activities (eg baptisms, weddings, and funerals) and about membership statistics in the circuit……. Responsibility for the direction and policy for the circuit is shared between lay and ordained. Voluntary circuit stewards have responsibility for maintaining, buying and selling circuit property (usually manses), and for the general welfare of the ordained and employed staff in the circuit. There is also a circuit treasurer. The circuit is the place where new initiatives and changes in the pattern of church life need to happen. This is where the staffing capacity, where closures of chapels are debated, and where fresh expressions of church or new pioneer ministries are launched.’
You will see as part of this month’s newsletter a paper submitted to and approved through the Autumn Calderdale Circuit Meeting which seeks to explore how each church in the Calderdale Circuit would define itself in relation to the ‘five streams for mission’ and where:
…….each church is encouraged to prayerfully determine which of the five streams it feels is the best description of its current status and vision of its future and to give a report backing their choice.
Opportunities for conversation to draft a response will be needed in each church before the Circuit Meeting in March 2019 where the way forward will be discussed further.
As we continue to be bearers of the good news of Jesus in our community and the world a prayer from Rev Dr Roger Walton for us all:
Loving God, we long for a world transformed, where justice and peace reign,
where people live joyfully with variety and difference,
where every person is honoured and all are welcomed.
Renew in us the vision of your kingdom,
free us from selfish interests and all that hinders your liberating love,
and empower us to pray and work for the new heaven and the new earth.
In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Roger Walton, Yorkshire West District Chair
July and August
Over the past few years I have had the privilege to be involved with the ‘Encounter Programme’. ‘Encounter’ is a year-long programme that explores discipleship and vocation developed and run by the Methodist Church’ and here are a couple of typical comments from the last programme run in the Calderdale Circuit that ended earlier this year:
‘A fantastic combination of fellowship, prayer, creative meditation and inventive ways to deepen faith. I have loved it! Sad that it’s got to end but it’s now time to move forward with whatever God has in store for each of us.’
‘It was all more than I anticipated. Thank you to you all for the journey!’
‘The programme is designed to help people develop a deeper relationship with God, to know themselves better and identify their gifts and discern their personal calling from God, in service, both within and outside the church. Encounter is an ideal programme if you are sensing a call to a particular ministry, either ordained or lay, and wish to explore that calling further. Encounter is also for you if you sense God is nudging you to do something new or deeper, and feel called to explore what that call might be.
A small group of up to 12 people, led by Encounter Facilitators, meet approximately once a month to consider various themes relating to discipleship and vocation. Each session involves prayer, engagement with the Bible, discussion and time for reflection. Between sessions, Explorers follow activities of their own choosing, such as delving deeper into session themes, practical experiences of Christian service or ministry, and personal learning experiences such as reading, attending short courses or study days. Each Explorer also meets regularly with an Encounter Accompanist to discuss and reflect on their personal journey during the Encounter programme.
You can download a leaflet about Encounter by following this web link
which contains more information about the programme.
Or you can visit the Encounter website www.methodistencounter.org.uk also contains full details about the programme.’
Perhaps you might like to ponder over the summer whether the ‘Encounter Programme’ is something you would like to engage with; it starts in September 18 and ends in July 2019. If that is the case then speak with me and I’d be glad to have a conversation about how we might take that forward.
I hope that summer months allow you some time and space for rest and relaxation knowing you are held in the love of Christ.
We are fast approaching the event that takes place around this time of the year which has much significance in Methodism – the annual Methodist Conference. This year it is being held in Nottingham from the 28th June to 5th July.
What does the Methodist Conference mean to you? The Methodist Church Website explains:
‘The Methodist Conference is the body that agrees policy for the Methodist Church. It meets annually in June or July and is hosted by a different district or group of districts each year. The Conference first met in 1744 under John Wesley, who gathered together his assistants (both ordained ministers and itinerant lay preachers) to confer together about 'what to teach, how to teach, and what to do, i.e. how to regulate our doctrine, discipline and practice.' The contemporary Conference is a gathering of representatives from each Methodist district, along with some who have been elected by the Conference and some ex officio members and representatives of the Youth Assembly. Representatives are a mixture of lay people, ordained presbyters and deacons. Presbyters and deacons also have their own separate gatherings before the main, decision-making session. Business for the Conference to decide upon is prepared by the Methodist Council, an elected body that meets regularly. Memorials to Conference may be sent by districts ahead of time, and representatives to Conference may introduce Notices of Motion.’
I watched a video clip about the Methodist Church recently which ended with the message ‘We are you’ – a profound reminder of the connexional or interconnected essence of who and how we are the Methodist Church and how ‘Conference’ forms that pivotal role in our being.
Can I please encourage you to pray for Conference; to pray for the Yorkshire West District representatives and all those who attend; for the conversations and decisions, for current and past Presidents and Vice Presidents and for the President Designate Revd Michaela Youngson and the Vice-President Designate Bala Gnanapragasam; that in all things God may be glorified and His will be done for His Kingdom to come. You can engage with Conference directly if you have access to the internet and you can ‘Live Stream’ some of the worship and debates in real time; if you can I would encourage you to do so.
Offering a challenge to us all the Revd Lorraine Mellor; the current President of the Methodist Conference said:
"I want to encourage and enable the Church to put God back on the agenda in our communities and enthuse people to share the Good News. The Church has reached a tipping point, the time has come for us to take some risks in our mission and in our discipleship in order to help us grow".
As the Methodist Church how will we respond to that challenge in the name of Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit to the glory of God.?
‘Thy Kingdom Come’*
‘Peace is the Journey’# from Easter to Pentecost and beyond.
I received the following article through the Yorkshire West District Office and thought you would want to know about this initiative:
* Thy Kingdom Come is an initiative of the Archbishop of Canterbury inviting prayer, especially between Ascension and Pentecost, for more people to come to know Jesus Christ. The Yorkshire West District is hosting a Pentecost Party on Sunday 20th May at the John Charles Arena in South Leeds, from 1.30 to 5.30pm, as a major Yorkshire focus for TKC. The Vice President of the conference, Jill Baker, will preach, and Stuart Townend will lead worship.
# Peace is the Journey is an initiative of Barbara Glasson, Team leader at Touchstone and Deputy Chair of the District, involving walking from Liverpool to Leeds (on the Leeds/Liverpool Canal towpath) from 6th to 20th May. A companion on (some of) this walk will be Tim Baker, of All We Can.
The invitation is to each circuit and local church to participate, in whatever way is appropriate for your setting, in this exploration of pilgrimage and prayer. This could mean:
Walking your circuit in a prayerful and structured way (e.g. Airedale Circuit have just completed ‘Walk with me’ – a series of morning walks linking the circuit churches in prayer).
Prayer-Walking your church buildings and/or their communities (the next step for Airedale). There is information regarding Prayer walking in the Story of Light Handbook (see Link on District Website).
Linking with Peace is the Journey, either by linking directly with Barbara and the walk (see provisional itinerary below), or by gathering and decorating prayer stones, either for Barbara to distribute on the way, or to be used in your local prayer-walks (see instructions below*).
Linking with another church or circuit to walk together, whether paired because of proximity, or difference. A provisional itinerary is being planned.
The invitation is to each circuit and local church to participate, in whatever way is appropriate for your setting, in this exploration of pilgrimage and prayer.
More info – Nick Blundell firstname.lastname@example.org or 01274 416506
As we each seek to communicate the Good News of Jesus in our communities and beyond I offer this prayer from Revd Dr Roger Walton:
Jesus, alpha and omega, first and last, beginning and end, making all things new, come to us afresh this moment; enlarge our vision of your kingdom; enflame our passion for truth and justice; kindle your grace in our hearts that we may be bold to speak of your love, freely giving and receiving, wherever we go, whoever we are with and whatever we face.
April news from our Minister. Sorry I didn't receive one for March.
And still more snow!.....Then just when it looks like winter will be here forever, the sun shines the frost thaws and the spring flowers bloom.
On Good Friday the disciples must have had the sense that the darkness of winter would be with them forever. Jesus had died and was buried in a tomb and all seemed lost. Then, on Easter morning, and as Luke’s account puts it:
1 On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. 2 They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, 3 but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. 4 While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. 5 In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? 6 He is not here; he has risen! Luke 24: 1 -6 [NIV]
What was the women’s first response to this history making event? It was to share the Good News with others that “Jesus is risen”.
‘Jesus is risen – He is risen indeed’; what is our response is to the awesome love of God seen through Jesus’ life, death and resurrection and what does it means to be a disciple of Jesus for us today? How might we be the light and love bearers of Christ to many in the world today who suffer a continual winter of injustice, poverty, famine, drought and the consequences of war.
Do we each truly know that we are treasured and loved by God and the sign and cost of that love is witnessed through an empty cross, an empty tomb and the invitation to proclaim far and wide “I have seen the Lord”.
The late Billy Graham is reported to have said:
“The resurrection of Christ changed the midnight of bereavement into a sunrise of reunion; it changed the midnight of disappointment into a sunrise of joy; it changed the midnight of fear to a sunrise of peace.”
May you know the assurance, joy, peace and love of God through Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit this Easter for: He is Risen – He is Risen indeed; Hallelujah!
I received an email from a colleague recently who questioned, ‘Where is the year going already?’ It hardly seems as though we have turned the page of a new year that, as I write this newsletter, we approach the season of Lent which begins on Ash Wednesday; 14th February 2018.
The opening words for the Ash Wednesday service in the Methodist Worship Book sets a Lenten context explaining:
‘At first, this season of Lent was observed by those being prepared for Baptism at Easter and by those seeking restoration to the Church’s fellowship. In the course of time, all Christians were invited to keep these days carefully, to take heart the call to repentance, to receive the assurance of forgiveness proclaimed in the Gospel, and so to grow in faith and devotion to our Lord.’
This year what will be your approach to Lent?
A friend recently passed on a card he had received from ‘All We Can’ – which is the operating name of The Methodist Relief and Development Fund, whose aim is to ‘help find solutions to poverty by engaging with local people and organisations in some of the world’s poorest communities to end the suffering caused by inequality and injustice.’
A 6 week [40 day] Lenten resource of reflections, activities and prayers has been produced by ‘All We Can’ where the invitation is to ‘Keep it simple’. The aim is to be inspired as individuals, groups, churches and young people using the resources [book or daily email] exploring ‘the pleasure of living simply while joining in solidarity with our global neighbours.’
Is this something you might want to be involved with as an individual or in a small group? The resources are free and can be ordered on-line but a donation can be made accordingly. Maybe you could co-ordinate an order or arrange a small group to meet during Lent to ‘Keep it simple’ together? http://allwecan.eu
I’ll close with a prayer from ‘Keep it simple’:
Loving God, We come to you, knowing that you care deeply for everything you have made. We thank you for the joy, freedom and justice that are found in your Kingdom. We pray for your Kingdom to come and for your will to be done – in our lives, in the lives of the people we hold in our hearts, and for people around the world struggling with poverty and injustice. Help us to be your witnesses as we seek your Kingdom first. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
FrancisFrom February 2018 you will find the newsletter here.
November - January
According to an article I read in a newspaper recently there were 130 million parcels delivered over Christmas 2016 - the logistics of which must be enormous. That said, have you ever experienced not being in when a parcel you were waiting for has attempted to be delivered and finding the card through the door saying you can collect it the next day? Waiting; how do we respond when we are required to wait?
Advent, for Christians, is a time of waiting upon God in preparation for the coming of Christ. The United Methodist Church website explains: ‘…Advent, comes from the Latin word adventus meaning coming or visit, begins four Sundays before Christmas and ends on Christmas Eve.’
I wonder how we will approach Advent as we wait for and journey towards Christmas, looking forward to the birth of Christ and as we ponder His coming again. Over the years Advent has been a time for prayer and reflection on Christ’s coming and all that that means. Are we able to create that space each day, no matter how short, for prayer and time with God and as the journey to the manger gets ever nearer?
As we watch and wait, I pray your Advent may be one where you are drawn closer to Christ and the assurance of His love. That as we journey to the room where Christ is born, we may know Him born anew in our hearts with His love for the world so that we may share the Good News of ‘Immanuel’, ‘God with us’ in whom all our hope is founded:
Hope of the world, Mary's Child, you're coming soon to reign; King of the earth, Mary's Child, walk in our streets again. Geoffrey Ainger
May God surround you with His love and peace this Advent, Christmas and New Year.
Love and blessings,
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