PASTORAL LETTER FROM PETE BANGS : 8th JULY 2020

Dear friends

During my recent week off I had much time for contemplation and a lot of my focus has been on prayer walks and pilgrimages. This was inspired by a quotation in an email I received early in the week. “I always get to where I am going by walking away from where I’ve been” seemed to encapsulate so many things that are on our minds right now. From the immediacy of our lives as followers of Christ, walking away from the old to be born anew, to the trajectory of the church as it moves into a post lockdown world.

Most of us recognise that the new ways of doing things we’ve found in this strange world have had their benefits as well as losses. We have reached and connected with people who for one reason or another would have found connecting with Sunday meetings difficult. One online circuit service has had over 600 views. Zoom prayer meetings have enabled people who would not necessarily attend physical meetings to be part of the vital prayer life of the church. Life has been vibrant and inclusive for many. There are those, however, who struggle with this sudden reliance on technology or simply do not have access to that technology for whatever reason and these people may have found themselves on the outside struggling to connect. Where we are walking towards needs to include everyone and make sure we do not rush backwards to where we were.

Also there is the idea of prayer walks and pilgrimages. Jesus spent much of his ministry walking. Walking is a wonderful opportunity for prayer and finding focus. Walking the labyrinth in quiet contemplation is a restful way to connect with God and has surprised many who have walked it. Prayer walks are another great way of getting closer to God. Walking your local area and quietly praying a blessing as you go is amazing and focussing on others means you really get to hear God. Like life, the goal is sometimes too far away to contemplate so it becomes about the journey. The journey is where we get to reflect Christ and so something to be valued in its own right.

Our journey is where we express, in words and actions, our love of God and our desire to emulate Jesus in how we live. To get where we are going by walking away from where we’ve been requires trust in something greater than ourselves or even Google Maps. It requires a trust in God that He has a plan and a direction for us. God did not make us to stand still, to be static. Jesus told us to follow Him. That requires us to move from where we are towards where God wants us. This time of lockdown has given us the opportunity to ask ourselves “are we moving forward?”, and if not, why not? What is holding us back?

The quote, in case you wondered, is from Winnie the Pooh, a character of the sort of simplicity of faith that I think Jesus was talking about when he spoke of the faith of a child. If any of you have a thought about how to move forward my role is to support you in that. If you have ideas for how to reach out to the community, whether it is one person or many, contact me and let’s see if we can make it happen.

My prayer for us all is that we are moving forward, taking the best of what was with us and gaining new insights, new ways of sharing the Good News as we go forward. May this journey not be a return to old lands and old ways but may we be moving step by step to a new, promised land. Amen.

Take care as lockdown restrictions are loosened, stay safe.

Yours in Christ

Pete Bangs

Pioneer Missioner

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