Please meet our new Vice President and President of the Methodist Church in the UK. Mrs Carolyn Lawrence and Rev Richard Teal were inducted at the on-line Methodist Conference on Saturday 27th June. Richard is a Methodist presbyter who was brought up in the Yorkshire Dales, where his father was a farmer. Richard’s first circuit was Blaydon in the Newcastle-upon-Tyne District and he was then sent as Superintendent to what in those days was a priority appointment in Berwick-upon-Tweed on the English-Scottish border.
Mrs Carolyn Lawrence is married to a Methodist Presbyter and she herself has been a local preacher for 25 years. Richard and Carolyn have chosen their theme based on the last words of John Wesley, ‘Best of all is God is with us.’ If you have access to the internet, I would encourage you to listen to their inaugural addresses. They’re half an hour each. If you’d like a copy of the text do give me a ring and I’ll make sure you get a copy.
On the 30th June, the Methodist Property team issued new guidelines on the reopening of church buildings. This was in line with the governments announcement that places of worship could open for worship on the 4th July if they could do so safely. As you will appreciate there is a lengthy process to achieve this and any act of worship would have to be carefully planned, with no singing permitted. The Circuit Leadership Team has been monitoring the developments closely and we will be releasing some guidance soon.
I want to share some of the thoughts from the documents we have been sent by the Property team of the Methodist Church:
‘“Church” can be wherever we gather or scatter, conscious of our calling as disciples of Jesus. We already knew this, but the lockdown has brought it into sharp focus. We are now permitted to open our buildings once more. A desire to “return to normal” is natural, but may not be practically possible or missionally necessary at this time. Our task in this moment is to consider what use of our buildings and what pattern of worship will best serve the discipleship of our people and the needs of our local community. As we emerge from lockdown, these questions can help us discern what God has been doing in us and in our communities. In this context, we can consider what God would have us do with our buildings and how God would have us worship:
• What have you learned during lockdown as a church that excites you about worship? What have you learned about evangelism and building relationships with new people?
• What have you not grieved for or missed as a church during lockdown? What might you decide not to pick up again?
• How have you perceived God’s presence and hiddenness?
• What has lockdown taught you about the foundations of your mission as a local church?’
That’s a lot to ponder on. I know there are some who are longing to be able to physically gather for worship. All I would say is, ‘please be patient.’ We have to prioritise everyone’s safety and we have to consider what we would be inviting people to. It wouldn’t be worship as we know it. Imagine not being able to sing?
In the meantime, we will continue to provide a weekly on-line service for the Circuit and deliver the weekly worship sheets. My colleagues and I would like to express our thanks to you for the encouragement we have received over these months. With this in mind I close with some words from Paul’s prayer to the church in Philippi, which I echo to you:
‘I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.’ (Philippians 1:3-5)
Your sister in Christ, Juliet