PASTORAL LETTER FROM MARK CHESTER : 17th June 2020

Dear friends

May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with all of us, at this time.

Most of us of a certain age will remember the song ‘By the rivers of Babylon’ which was a hit for Boney M in the 1970’s. For me when I hear this song, it brings back fond memories of a time when everything seemed better and life was simpler. It seems to be a part of human nature to long for a return to a mythic past, a golden age where everything was better.

I’m sure most of you will know that ‘By the rivers of Babylon’ was taken from Psalm 137. In 597 BC Jerusalem and the land of Judah had been conquered by King Nebuchadnezzar and his armies. This was a time of death and savage warfare, Jerusalem was destroyed and many of the Jews were led in captivity to Babylon, forcibly removed from their homes, families and familiar surroundings to a strange land, to a different culture and even a different language. I imagine many of the Jews would have felt overwhelmed with sadness and even rage. Reading Psalm 137 we can almost feel the emotions of anger, frustration and a longing to return to the old ways; but things were going to be different from now on, they had to learn to live differently and even after the exile when the Jews were allowed to return to their homeland things were never going to be the same again.

To some of us it may feel like we are living in a type of exile now, where life is different, many of us are still separated from our friends and families, exiled from the way we used to do things. Many of us may be feeling rage and anger at the events happening in our country and around the world, others may be sad and frustrated at not knowing what to do or how to express what is going on inside them.

As the country moves slowly out of lockdown, in a way it will be like coming out of exile where things will be different and we will need to learn to live differently.

This is the way of history; life sometimes changes in small almost unnoticeable ways and sometimes in ways which have a greater impact on the way we live our lives. For us as Christians the way we do church will change, the way we worship, the way we do mission and even the way we understand certain things about the kingdom of God will evolve and grow as we remain open to the working of the Holy Spirit.

However there is one thing we can all be sure of, even in the midst of all that is changing in the world today – God is with us. The second half of the book of Isaiah spoke to the returning exiles from Babylon about many things but the central theme was ‘Do not be afraid, for I am with you’ (Isaiah 43:5). John Wesley the founder of the Methodist movement, on his death bed raised his arms in worship and said ‘Best of all, God is with us’. We may continue to experience sadness or anger and that is perfectly normal, you may find it helpful to express your feelings to a close friend, to a church steward or to the circuit leadership and you can bring your feelings to God in prayer.

So let us continue to fix our eyes upon Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith and let us remember his words ‘I will never leave you nor will I forsake you’ (Hebrews 13:6)

Yours in Christ

Mark Chester (Circuit Steward)

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