Dear Friends,

Over the recent May Bank Holiday weekend, Cliff College, hosted ‘Festival at Home’. Instead of hundreds of people travelling to Derbyshire to share in the annual gathering, Cliff decided to live stream their worship, Bible teaching and seminars on the web. If you put https://cliffcollege.ac.uk/cliff-festival in to the search engine you can still watch the content of the weekend. I wouldn’t have been able to go to the Festival this year, so I felt blessed to be able to join in at home, without having to stay in a tent at Cliff College! I encourage you to have a look at the website, if you are on-line.

This month we are going to join with other Methodist circuits across the country in ‘Bible Month.’ Each Sunday we will be looking at a chapter of the book of Ruth and focusing on a specific character. Ruth has 4 chapters in total, which lends itself well to a 4 week preaching series. On Sunday 7th June we’ll be focusing on the character of Orpah in Ruth Chapter 1. You might well be asking ‘who is she?’ Orpah is Naomi’s other daughter-in-law who plays a fairly minor role. Orpah is sometimes described in unfavourable terms, especially in comparison to Ruth, who is held up as a loyal companion to Naomi. Tune in on the 7th June to find out more. I do encourage you, if you can, to read the chapter before each Sunday so you are familiar with it before the service. Dr Rachel Starr introduces us to the book of Ruth:

‘Ruth is a story about finding home and hope. Often read as a romantic comedy which begins, more or less, ‘once upon a time’ and ends, more or less, ‘and they lived happily ever after’, those who spend time with it come to see how it resists interpretation. Unsettling and transformative, Ruth offers new models of relationship, and provokes fresh insights into what it means to live out faith in God whose generosity generates yet more life and love…..Ruth explores the human need for bread and belonging. It makes visible the lengths to which individuals will go to ensure the survival of themselves and their loved ones. And it suggests that, through loving kindness, God is present.’

That final sentence was written long before the Coronavirus Pandemic. How timely it is reading it today. That loving kindness is needed more than ever as we continue to live with the effects of this Pandemic. We might not literally be strangers in an alien land, as Ruth was, but we are living in a different world and we don’t know what will emerge at the end of the Pandemic. What we do know is that we have a God who is faithful and who is in this with us.

I close with a Prayer for the World, recently released by the Church of England:

God of love and hope,
you made the world and care for all creation,
but the world feels strange right now.
The news is full of stories about Coronavirus.
Some people are worried that they might get ill.
Others are anxious for their family and friends.
Be with them and help them to find peace.
We pray for the doctors and nurses and scientists,
and all who are working to discover the right medicines
to help those who are ill.
Thank you that even in these anxious times,
you are with us. Help us to put our trust in you and keep us safe. Amen.

Your sister in Christ, Juliet

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