2020 AGM REFLECTIONS

REFLECTION BY NICOLA WLLIAMS

From the West Wales Methodist Circuit -

'Today's meditation comes from Nicola WIlliams, one of our Local Preachers

As I sit in my bed, looking out at the sunny day, whilst being laid low by some nasty virus which is causing painful coughing fits and a high temperature, I am having time to reflect on the events of the last few weeks. Today Mike and I should have been leading a Llanelli Ramblers Festival walk from Stackpole Church to St. Govan’s Head and what perfect weather it would have been for this most beautiful of walks. I’m sure I’ll feel better tomorrow.

I remember, as a child, the standard punishment for misbehaviour for my sister and I was banishment to our rooms. I can’t imagine that happening much nowadays, but in my day once you heard the cry, “Go to your room and don’t come out until I call you!”, you would go, without question. Sometimes it would be followed by, “And think about what you have done”. I wasn’t always sure, but it didn’t really matter because, fortunately, we were always called in time for the next meal, which was just as lovingly prepared as always, and everything would be back to normal. It wasn’t a bad punishment at all really because I enjoyed messing about in my room and was never bored.

It occurred to me that I am here again, banished to my room, but in a sense that is what happened to all of us with the lockdown. Stay at home and don’t come out until you’re called - except for essentials and emergencies, of course. Nobody so far has said, “and think about what you have done”, but I think many of us have been reflecting on our lives before the lockdown and how much everything has changed in this short space of time. Most people I speak to have quite quickly adjusted to this new way of life, and are finding many benefits, which no one could have foreseen, for example a slower pace of life, time to enjoy nature or catch up with jobs, learn new cooking skills or a craft that we never had time to do. Many of us guiltily say, “I’m quite enjoying it”.

The reason we feel guilty is because we know that this enjoyment comes at great cost to many of those around us. It’s easy to adapt when you have a nice space to live in and a garden to enjoy, when you are not afraid to be at home, when you have no money worries, when you don’t have a business that will almost certainly go under, when you are not fighting for breath or waiting for the dreaded phone call from the hospital, when you not having to work all the hours God sends fighting to keep people alive, or keeping society going, on the ‘frontline’. But even those who have suffered are appreciating the sound of birds singing, the smell of fresh clean air, the joy of random acts of kindness which have become so prevalent.

Furthermore, it turns out that when everything else is stripped away and people are feeling vulnerable, even after the initial stockpiling of provisions, most have been called or inspired to love in ways that they could never have imagined. When we were physically worshipping together, what seems like years ago now rather than weeks, what did we used to pray for? A greater sharing of resources, an end to homelessness, a solution to climate change, better funding and workable solutions for our health and social care, an end to knife crime and drug abuse, new life for our struggling churches, to mention a few.

Since lockdown there has been an unprecedented government led national sharing of resources in many countries globally and the value of money has fallen dramatically, the homeless have taken up residence in unused hotel rooms, the air is noticeably cleaner, health and social care are right at the top of the agenda, police are worried that crime, which has fallen considerably since March, will rise up again once people are back on the streets, and church and worship are being achieved in innovative new ways.

It feels as though Creation itself has sent us to our rooms and told us to think about what we have done. Disease is part of the evil that we live alongside, but the God of Love transforms even the effects of Covid 19 to achieve good. Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery, but Joseph was able to forgive them saying, "Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives." Genesis 50:19-20.

Of course, the ultimate transformation is seen in the empty cross of Christ. A grotesque instrument of torture transformed into a glorious symbol of eternal Love, Life and Hope.

Let us reflect what have we done, and what will we do in the future, what will life look like in the next months and years? As people of hope let us keep praying that, as the lockdown eases, love will continue to rise up in all people, so that things will never be the same again.

"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." Romans 8:28 NIV

We ask for a cupful, when the vast sea is ours,
We pick a small rosebud from a garden of flowers
Whatever we ask for falls short of God’s giving
For his greatness exceeds every facet of living.
(Helen Steiner Rice, Celebrations of the Heart)'

 

 

 

REFLECTION BY ANDY GLOVER, BAPTIST UNION MINISTER

'Our world has changed radically. We are in a Kairos Moment, a crisis, a liminal time. It’s an off-balance and creative moment, a disruptive and devastating moment. But in the midst of our brokenness and sadness we also carry hope, the hope for a different kind of Church, a different kind of leadership. The hope of a Church unleashed and a Church as Jesus intended it to be.

 

This new context is one of stress, uncertainty and anxiety – replacing for many the sense of being comfortable and secure, of being in control of life… This was always an illusion but now we have a new, unmasked reality as this pandemic creates relational stress, economic uncertainty, political unknowns and emotional anxiety – but also greater spiritual openness…

 

A principle of spiritual renewal is that it always follows periods of crisis, change, and transition, and I believe that this moment of transition and change could provide a catalyst for it to happen again – for personal and corporate renewal. But we will not experience this by following the same patterns of life and ministry that failed to deliver renewal in the past. No, we need to be interrupted and have our patterns halted. Selah….

 

No one is enjoying what is happening and none would have chosen it for 2020 but if we don’t back away or resist, what might God do? Renewal always comes when we align ourselves with His timetable and now is a chance and time unlike any other to do this. So we need to lean into this time of transition, primarily through surrender, a response that says, ‘I want to know what You are doing more than all the things I think I should do.’

 

So let me explore three opportunities that I believe COVID-19 has given the Church.

 

The opportunity to pray like never before.

So often we are so busy doing that we don’t stop to simply pray.

What if in this season of fewer meetings, less setting up and packing down, less driving and less activity, we spent more time in prayer? To lament and praise, to weep and laugh, to retreat so we can advance?

In this season, deepening the work that God does in my life will be the key to what God wants to do through my life. We need to live in and from the presence of God if we are to exercise greater spiritual authority to build and extend the Kingdom. Now is the moment to establish rhythms and practices of discipleship around the dimensions of firstly looking up, then working within and finally going out.

 

The Opportunity to be the Church.

With our buildings closed, we are having to ‘be’ Church in our homes and neighbourhoods.

Instead of going to music practice, men’s group, women’s group, toddler group, seniors’ group, craft group – and all the other groups we can’t go to anymore! – we can connect with neighbours and find out what they love doing whilst planting the seeds of the gospel.

What if after this crisis, we break the model of Sunday-centric attractional church and don’t focus all of our attention on providing this event but scatter ourselves across the villages, towns, and cities. What if we permeate every corner, discovering where our imaginative God is already at work and partnering with Him there!

Already I know of many stories of Christians who have seized this opportunity to be the Church rather than simply attend it, from making up hampers for neighbours, to giving store workers hand written thank you cards and boxes of chocolates, to praying with those who are anxious.

 

The Opportunity to Innovate

The churches that are growing are those where there is less emphasis on gathering, and more emphasis on making disciples, who in turn make more disciples – rather like what Jesus modelled in the Bible!

The churches in Iran, China and Indonesia are just some that serve as incredible examples of this.

What if at the end of this pandemic we actually chose to keep our buildings closed on some Sundays? I’m not saying we should, but simply asking what if we did? What if we had found a more effective way to do church during this season? What if when we reopened our buildings, they were completely repurposed to reflect a new – or maybe old (think Jesus and His disciples) – revelation?

A church that embraces the fivefold ministry mindset, not just in individuals but as a community, one where we are all apostolic, prophetic, evangelistic, pastoring and teaching.

 

Everything has changed in recent weeks… including for the Church.

Should it mean change for our buildings too?'

 

 

 

REFLECTION BY AMY SCOTT ROBINSON, BIBLE READING FELLOWSHIP

I’m sitting in my tiny study – really just a corner of our bedroom - surrounded by the paraphernalia of lockdown. Because my church children’s work, performance storytelling and writing workshops all moved online for me in March, I have the tools of all the various things I do within arm’s reach, ready to be picked up and squeezed into the tiny square of a video screen: my face to face work is now pixelated, buffering and reliant upon technology. The mess looks like a collection of symbols for my life. My ukulele for the children’s songs, puppets for ventriloquist sketches, crafts in various stages of completion, and the candle I light for the school’s weekly collective worship are displayed higgledy-piggledy atop the piles of notebooks and shelves of reference books I use for my writing. The effect is of a still life by a Dutch old master, a haphazard pile of meaningful clutter.

This, I realise, is why I've been missing the church building so very much. It’s like my study, but on a much bigger and older scale: lectern and font, altar and pulpit, candlestick and communion cup, every item heavy with meaning and rich with centuries of use. God, of course, is everywhere, but there is good reason for us to meet him in a space set aside for worship, and for those of us brought up on such symbols, the necessary closure of churches is a strange and painful exile. It’s not that it is impossible to worship God elsewhere; it’s that we have trained our spirits to respond to touch, taste, sound and smell, in the same way that we don’t get that holiday feeling until the first glimpse of the sea, or that we remember Grandma best when we smell her perfume lingering on her favourite soft scarf. Some things are so linked to our senses that we feel lost without them. We’re designed that way: that’s why God provides us with senses, and a physical world.

Easter was especially odd: with no Easter fire or Paschal candle, my husband, children and I all gathered in our bed, opened the windows to hear the dawn chorus and watched the sun rise while listening to a dawn service streamed by the Bishop. At the point of the Easter noise, we hooted and clapped, waking the neighbours who were camping in their garden. The sunrise and the songbirds, even older symbols than the candle and the fire, combined with the emotions of a world in lockdown to link us in an unexpectedly visceral way to the events of the first Easter.

For it is not just church buildings that are filled with divine metaphorical meeting places. Throughout scripture, God plants himself in concrete reminders of his character. One country walk can show me dozens of these: a tree planted by a stream, a bird’s nest, wildflowers and the rocks along the path are all biblical ways of describing God (and all mentioned in my book, Image of the Invisible). Even confined to my house, I’m surrounded by scriptural God-symbols: clothing, bread and water, music playing, the fact that I switch on a light in the morning and take a shower. Just as each object in my messy study reflects a different aspect of myself and what I do, so everything in God’s creation reflects an aspect of its creator and his relationship with us. And though it may not be the old, familiar way of worship, perhaps this exile can encourage us into new, life-giving encounters with our heavenly Father.

Even the lockdown becomes a metaphor, although it may not be precisely what St Paul was imagining. For now we see through a video call, darkly, and with a buffering picture and a poor connection; but then we shall see face to face. Now we know only in part, one message notification flashing up at a time; but then we shall know God as well as he knows, and always has known, us.


Page last updated: 5th June 2020 5:39 PM