October 2020 Letter to the Vale of Stour Churches
As our Covid journey continues and the threat of a return to lockdown looms, it is important not to lose sight of the sustaining patterns of the Church year. This discipline is something we can all cling onto in the face of uncertainty… The summer has passed and here we are already into another year. I have always felt that Methodism has at least three new-years… There is September – when ministry teams change and the cycle of meetings that work from the local church towards conference next year begin. This is our on-going commitment to be connexional, to the wider sharing of our resources, to lay and ordained working together to seek what it means to bring the light of hope of Jesus to this place. If we trust in God, apprentice ourselves to Jesus and let the Holy Spirit in, who knows what is possible…
Then, if I dare to mention it, Advent is not far away – the start of the liturgical year and the great sweeping Biblical stories of Advent, Christmas & Epiphany, followed closely by Lent, Holy week - the darkness of Good Friday and the glorious light of Easter Day – pushing on through to the birth of the Church at Pentecost (a fourth new year perhaps!).
Here I love the never ending sense of story, that God walks with us in amidst the muck and complexity of it all, from Peter’s denial to the Emmaus revelation that Jesus is alive, journeying by our side, standing in solidarity with us in the face of the storm, guiding, stilling and sending the Holy Spirit to go before and within. And in January many Methodist Churches celebrate the unique and rather special Covenant service which reminds us that all we are is bound up in covenant relationship with Father, Son and Holy Spirit who call and enable us to bear witness to God’s saving love in Christ whatever our situation or place in the world. I am comforted to know that through this covenant, God enfolds us in generous and gracious love that is not dependent on our deserving. I wonder if we have three new-years because in reality we are all pretty poor at keeping our new-year promises? It’s always good to have another chance to get it right, to be better and after all - we give thanks because we believe Christ on the Cross is all about the great redemptive story of the cross and second chances
With Rev Josephine’s reception into full connexion, Rev Helen Croft’s arrival and a rebalancing of our circuit stations there are many new starts going on, despite the stilted nature of our Covid context. So we pray for all involved in new beginnings. Isaiah 43:18–19 says: “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland. The first of three new-year’s has already come and gone. Together, let us face Covid boldly, walking forward in faith seeking out the new, creative and refreshing things God is preparing for us to do. God bless you and stay safe. Rev Alan Combes