MONTHLY PASTORAL LETTER FROM REV ARTHUR COWBURN AUGUST 2021

Dear Friends

I’ve always been fascinated by the music that people choose for funerals. Some choose music that you would expect whilst others really surprise you with their musical tastes. It’s slipped from the number one slot in recent years but for many years the song most chosen was Frank Sinatra and “My way.”

I hope I’m not facing the final curtain just yet, but this is the last pastoral letter that I expect to write as an active minister in the Methodist Church so it’s an opportunity to look back over 32 years of ministry to date. Things have changed quite dramatically during that time. When I began in ministry people regularly came to the manse door, both those inside the church and those outside it. Then we reached a point where everything was done by telephone before moving on to email. I was regularly called on for the so-called Pastoral Offices of Baptisms, Weddings and Funerals whereas those things are now only a minor part of my ministry. That time has been more than filled though by the explosion of bureaucracy, having to deal with all the things that we now rightly have to do to comply with area such as Safeguarding and GDPR in order to comply with the law.

I’ve tried to maintain friendly relationships with everybody. I will always treasure an elderly man shaking hands with me at the end of a stormy meeting where we hadn’t seen eye to eye and saying, “We leave it there.” Having said that, I know there have been times when I’ve upset people or haven’t done the right thing and I’m sorry for those times. I’m also sorry that I was too legalistic in the early part of my ministry, insisting that the rules must be obeyed, often at the expense of what seemed to be the right pastoral outcome. As time has gone on, I’ve tried to put the pastoral needs first even if that’s meant bending the rules slightly in some instances.

Above all, I’ve found people to love and to be loved by. I hope I’ve helped some people in their Christian journey and am aware of a tremendous number of people who have helped me. My time in the Meon Valley Circuit has been relatively short and marked by the Coronavirus crisis but I want to thank you all for sharing with me for the past few years.

I know that during those 32 years there have been times when I’ve tried to do things my way and that those have usually been the times when things have gone wrong. In the Covenant Service each year we commit ourselves to doing things a different way, God’s way, and I know that when I’ve walked closely with God things have gone much more smoothly.

As I said, it’s not the final curtain and I wait to see what God has in store for me now. I trust and pray that God has tremendous opportunities lined up for the churches and the people of the Meon Valley Circuit. May we all try to do things God’s way and, in so doing, know the wonder of his love.

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to the power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. (Ephesians 3: 20-21)

With all good wishes for the future

Arthur

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