Dear Friends,

We recently held a socially distanced Church Council in church. This was to reflect on where we are at as a church and how we might ‘move forward,’ as the lockdown restrictions are eased. There was a strong desire to reopen for worship on Sundays. It was agreed that, providing we can safely implement it, we will reopen for worship on Sunday 6th June. Please watch out for more information as it is likely to mean a booking in system will be needed.

The services will be about thirty minutes long and led from the front. There will be no congregational singing for now. As you consider whether you would like to come on Sunday’s please can I ask you to remember that this is about worship and not fellowship. Social distancing will still be in place, which means you will be discouraged from chatting to people before and after the service. We also agreed that the litter picking could resume – I know that we have been missed in the community.

As I write this, I am preparing to take a three-month Sabbatical. I am grateful to Rev Maureen Lloyd who will be covering for me during that time. Maureen is well known and loved at Westerhope and has cared diligently for the congregation before. I know that you are all in safe hands. I also express my thanks to many others, often unnoticed, who ‘keep the wheels of the church turning.’

This will be my second Sabbatical. The first one was in my tenth year of ministry. It is now seven years since I was last on Sabbatical. The Methodist church has changed the pattern so that you no longer wait until the tenth year for your first Sabbatical. Each is intended to be every seventh year.

On the Methodist website, Sabbaticals are described as a gift from the Church and I am thankful for this, especially at a time of discernment in my own life. Next year I will have served for ten years in the Newcastle West Circuit and this Summer will be a time of reflecting on where I’m at. Sabbaticals are intended as ‘a time for re-equipping, refreshment and renewal.’ I look forward to reconnecting with you all in the second week of September, when I do indeed hope to be ‘re-equipped, refreshed and renewed’, ready to journey on with you once again in to whatever God has for us in the future.

So, as I bid you a ‘God bless you until we meet again’, I offer you all this prayer:

‘I thank my God every time I remember you, constantly praying with joy in every one of my prayers for all of you, because of your sharing in the gospel from the first day until now. I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Christ Jesus.’ (Philippians 1:3-6)

Your sister in Christ, Juliet