How many Methodist Ministers does it take to build a shed?
This was the slightly rude question posed a couple of weeks ago when me and a couple of friends (all Methodist Ministers!) set out one sunny day to construct a metal shed! None of us had attempted this before but we succeeded, and to the best of my knowledge it is still standing! When we unpacked the shed pieces, I expected to find four pillars that would support the roof and give the whole thing some stability but there were none. Each piece locked into the next until the shed was complete, and this gave it incredible stability (I realised as I banged my head on it for the for 18th time). The shed needed all the pieces to be in place, when we took one piece out (because it was upside down!) it wasn’t right, and wasn’t secure.
As we built the shed, I found myself reflecting that churches work best when everyone finds their place. There is a place for everyone in the life of the church, the is a place for everyone in God’s great work in the world, and only when we each find our place will the church be as it should. We can’t carry the load on our own, nor should we expect others to – we need to find our place, the place God calls us to. The community of the church is a gift from God to us, Dietrich Bonhoeffer writes:
“The fellowship of Christian brethren is a gift of grace, a gift of the Kingdom of God that any day may be taken from us, that the time that still separates us from utter loneliness may be brief indeed. Therefore, let him who until now has had the privilege of living a common Christian life with other Christians praise God’s grace from the bottom of his heart. Let him thank God on his knees and declare: It is grace, nothing but grace, that we are allowed to live in community with Christian brethren.”
Let us find our place, share the work, build God’s church, and know God’s grace!
When I was growing up, some local coach companies offered a trip out that I do not think I have come across ever since. The trip was known as a mystery tour. I do not even think that the coach operators could quite bring themselves to add the word “magical” with a straight face. Anyway, given I grew up in Manchester there was a very good chance you were going to end up in Blackpool, Southport or Morecambe on your mystery tour. I guess if you just fancied a trip to the seaside, such a mystery tour might make some sense, except the same coach companies also ran day trips to all three resorts anyway!
The trips began to die out when the coach operators started trying to save money and going to New Brighton on the banks of the River Mersey. If you have never been to New Brighton, just be grateful.
However, although they might not have been a very good commercial enterprise, mystery tours stand at the heart of the Biblical story and the Christian life. The story of God’s people begins when Abraham and Sarah were dispatched by God to leave their safe place and to go to a new land that they did not know.
As disciples we are called to make this same journey, going wherever God wants us to go and doing whatever God wants us to do, as we follow Jesus far beyond our safe spaces and comfort zones. Psalm 121: 1-2 says:
I lift up my eyes to the hills-- from where will my help come?
My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth
This Psalm is designed exactly for travellers who face a demanding, risky journey. It offers assurance and affirmation that the journey we undertake is not by ourselves alone. We are surrounded on the way by God, who we can always trust, the maker of heaven and earth.
As our two Circuits begin a new journey together, not everything that needs to be done will be a mystery, but we hope that as we journey beyond what we have known, we will begin with a spirit of adventure, open to wherever God wants to take us.
Love, peace and joy
Andrew and Richard
This could be the first you've heard about the upcoming merger of the Nottingham North and Nottingham East Methodist Circuits. That's ok. But we should probably warn you that it's not going to be the last!
Over the past year or so the two circuit leadership teams and staff have been meeting together to explore the calling we believe God has given us to join together for the purposes of building the Kingdom of God and working missionally.
We believe that God has a vision for us as Church in the North of Nottingham, and are excited about the opportunities ahead.
But possibly the most exciting thing in it all is the commitment to prayer. In all things we have sought God first, and truly believe that we are moving in His direction and timing.
We want that to continue, and so we invite you to pray with us throughout the coming months and beyond, that we are able to discern God's intention for us and His mission here.