PASTORAL LETTER FROM MARK CHESTER 6th January 2021

Dear Sisters and Brothers

Although a little late perhaps, I would like to wish you all happy New Year and hopefully we can all look forward to brighter 2021. I am sure you will agree that 2020 was a difficult year for all of us and we may be tempted to think of it as a wasted year with so many missed opportunities to meet with friends and family or to gather for worship and be involved in mission. Many of us may be wrestling with why Covid has happened, is it some judgement of God upon a wicked world? Is it a mass conspiracy unleased by an unfriendly country or there could be a countless number of other reasons why.

I would like to remind you of a story from John’s gospel (John 9) where the disciples asked Jesus why a certain man was blind, was it the man’s fault or his parents? Jesus answered the disciples question as to whose fault it was by saying it was nobody’s ‘fault’ and that by healing the man there was an opportunity to do the work of God.

Most of us dislike any sense of uncertainty, we like answers; whether that is political, theological or in life generally. For our minister Joseph and his wife Anna, 2020 brought unexpected issues in health and vulnerability. 2021 begins with them having to accept not knowing the future and placing themselves in God’s hands, trusting Him to work all things for good for them. We thank God for them and wish them well as we also look forward to welcoming our new minister Phil and his family but also know that, as we go into 2021 we will face issues which won’t necessarily have an easy or straightforward answer. There will be questions and debate but there will also be opportunities to do the work of God. For us as a circuit, as congregations and as individuals I believe the primary work of God is that we continue to be open for new ways in which we can learn to ‘love God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength’ and equally ‘to love our neighbour as ourselves’.

We will soon be asked to renew our commitment to God in the Methodist covenant service; here is the covenant prayer for us to think upon

                                                A covenant with God

                                                                                    I am no longer my own but yours.

                                                                                    Put me to what you will,

                                                                                    Rank me with whom you will;

                                                                                    Put me to doing,

                                                                                    Put me to suffering;

                                                                                    Let me be employed for you,

                                                                                    Or laid aside for you.

                                                                                    Exalted for you,

                                                                                    Or brought low for you.

                                                                                    Let me be full

                                                                                    Let me be empty.

                                                                                    Let me have all things,

                                                                                    Let me have nothing;

I freely and wholeheartedly yield all things

To your pleasure and disposal.

And now, glorious and blessed God,

Father, Son and Holy Spirit,

You are mine and I am yours.  So be it.

And the covenant now made on earth, let it be

Ratified in heaven.

The Methodist Covenant Prayer

Although this is a personal prayer between you and God, it is also a covenant we make together as a circuit and as congregations; we are not alone in ‘our doing, suffering or emptiness’. Regardless of the uncertainty we may face in 2021 we know that ‘best of all God is with us’.

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

Mark Chester

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