Our Ministers regularly write letters of encouragement and support.
In Jerusalem the archaeologists have discovered the different water systems that the city used in Bible times. The water came from a spring below the city and once there were walls for protection to find ways to protect the supply. Water was gathered in a pool, but the course of the water channel ran outside the wall. To ensure the supply they cut a tunnel through the rock. One group started at the spring and the other at the pool. The course of the tunnel is not straight it winds considerably, but the two groups met in the middle with a gradient of millimetres. No one can work out how they did it.
Two important centres of early church theology were Alexandria and Antioch. Alexandrian theology started with God and worked towards humanity; Antiochian theology started with humanity and worked towards God. The two never met in the middle. Unlike the tunnel diggers who met perfectly there were various disputes, not to mention rivalries. They did not even agree about how to read scripture, Antioch tended to read scripture literally, while Alexandria preferred allegorical reading.
In our worship and devotions, we seek ways of meeting God and living a holy life. Some are seeking the mountain top experience others have moved beyond that and seek the sanctified life in daily living. Some of us are Marthas others are Marys. We as Christians look to reflect Christ in the way we lead our lives. Some manage to find that balance and live in Christ, for others it is more of a struggle. To struggle to live that life is not a sign of our failing, Christian living is a journey in which we go to meet God, and find God is coming to meet us.
Sistine Chapel: Creation of Adam by Michelangelo
A Year in Prayer
For many months now, I have been writing to you about prayer.
I was thinking that perhaps I had written enough about prayer and perhaps it was time to move on… then I came to prepare the diary sheet for the week and what should pop up… Thy Kingdom Come – 10 days of prayer! Amongst the suggestions of ways to engage, 5 ways to pray! I guess God is telling me that it’s not time to draw to a close sharing my thoughts on prayer just yet.
The 5 ways to pray featured in Thy Kingdom Come include some similar ideas to what I have shared with you before; praying throughout the day at different times, taking time out in prayerful reflection, using artistic and creative ideas…
(coss window by Jean Parton)
2 things I haven’t touched on that are featured in Thy Kingdom Come are praying together (mostly because we have been in lockdown) and telling people that you are praying for them.
As we begin to regain our freedom to gather, perhaps praying with others is something for which we will find renewed enthusiasm. Consider gathering together with a small group of friends and through conversation, perhaps situations and people for whom you share concern will emerge that you could then try praying together about. Sometimes we are a bit shy of praying out loud with each other, but simply sharing a name or a place is all that’s needed, who knows where sharing such an experience may lead you…
Something we are equally shy about is telling someone we are praying for them. Sometimes that might be because we are afraid they will be offended. Although less than 10% of the population of the UK attend church regularly, 51% of people admit to praying sometimes – so chances are, they will be grateful for your prayer and even if they don’t pray themselves, most people will appreciate the caring gesture. Perhaps this is the next challenge we need to set for ourselves – admit we pray!
As church buildings begin to open and we gather in our congregational groups, I am thankful for the opportunity to have shared my thoughts with you occasionally through these letters; I think it has added a new kind of understanding for me about how the earliest Christians remained connected, though separated geographically. The last 14 months have, for the most part, been a time we are all hoping are never repeated, yet God has a way of salvaging the goodness even in the worst of times. Perhaps our letter sharing across the Circuit, along with prayer, worship and Bible Study initiatives in new and creative ways will be the green shoot that continues to grow from the stump of what was cut down.
“the Spirit is the one that testifies, for the Spirit is the truth” (1 John 5: 6)
Marks of a Methodist
Paul writes that there are many motives to declare Christ, some good some not, but all to a good outcome. The declaration of Christ is always good for the effect it will have on others. Some who declare Christ do so for their own selfish benefit and are limited in their care for others. They will always put their own needs first.
John Wesley, in 1742, wrote a pamphlet ‘The Character of a Methodist’. In this treatise Wesley explains what it means to be a disciple of Christ perfected in love. A picture is painted of growth in grace and love as give in scripture. Wesley does not misunderstand or ignore our human condition. We have or faults and our failings, but we can move on in the love of God. There is in the positive belief of what God’s grace can achieve. Those disciples who journey with integrity in the path of the gospel can live in the fulness of God’s love.
We live in a society where doubt seems to predominate. So many are fearful of committing to relationships, organisations, or events. Many find it hard to commit openly to what they believe. In our Christian community we are so often held back by doubts. In this difficulty we can find it hard to know the fulness of God’s love and grace.
The starting point for this growth is in the means of grace (Bible reading, prayer, worship, charity, etc.). In dedicating ourselves to Christian living then we open ourselves to God’s grace. In the writings of John Wesley those perfected in Christ ‘love God with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength’, and they love their neighbours as they love themselves’. It is then that we find Charles Wesley writes, ‘His glory our design,
We live our God to please;
And rise with filial fear divine,
To perfect holiness.’ (H&P 728)
‘Brother, sister, let me serve you let me be like Christ to you:
Pray that I may have the grace to let you be my servant too.’
We celebrated the resurrection of our Lord and Saviour on Easter Sunday. Jesus conquered our suffering. Our healing lies in the resurrection power. Healing was central to the ministry of Jesus and so His spirit in us is the root of the love and care we give to humanity. Good things are already happening and there is a glimmer of hope. With the easing of restrictions, we can finally sit in the gardens in groups of not more than six from different households, or two different households. Oh, and Spring is here! Greater still, the rollout of the vaccine appears to be successful. He is risen indeed, Alleluia!
Jesus says, ‘Come to me all you who are weary and are carrying heavy burdens and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.’ Jesus also says, ‘I have come that you may have life, and may have it in all its fulness.’
We are continually being forgiven, being formed, and transformed into being like Christ. This invitation to Christ is fulfilled in our fellowship with one another because Christ lives in us and us in him. It is our calling to be the hands and feet, of Christ, that work to bring life and to bring it in all its fulness. I believe we have been like Christ to one another in humble gentleness throughout the difficult part of the pandemic bringing comfort, love, and hope. We turned to one another for prayer and support, and we did all we could to reach out.
It has been long since we been in contact with our surrounding community. The easing of lockdown restrictions has allowed our Deacon Brenda Hayes to invite a few friends from the Do Drop In Café to safely meet in her back garden for refreshments on Wednesdays. We do so legally within restrictions. At the first gathering we caught up on the community ‘Godly gossip,’ seeking to examine where each of us are physically and spiritually. Listening to one another over a cup of hot drink and a piece of cake allowed us to pamper one another and to pray for and with one another in this beautiful garden.
At the end of our first session, I remember feeling joyful and realising how much I deeply missed to be in the company of the people I love. I left home that morning thinking I was going to assist Sister Brenda to host, in the end I felt the guests had in turn ministered to me. We journeyed together in the hard times; we continue to support one another in the easing of the pandemic. We are called to humble, servant ministry and to be the people holding the bowl and water washing the feet of the other. However, we must not forget to allow others to be the servant to us and wash our feet too. It is easier to care for others and neglect our own needs.
Please read John 13:14-17 where Jesus instructs us that the washing of feet is given and received. The word of God reminds us that God loves us unconditionally and we are worthy. As we journey on, please remember to focus on your own health and well-being as well as that of others. Allow yourself to be loved by the other so that you can see the love of Jesus as given you through our fellowship in North Norfolk Circuit. As we journey on in this time of healing, allow yourself to heal others and be healed in Jesus’ name! Amen.
Brother, sister, let me love you, let me be like Christ to you.
Pray that I may have the grace to let you be my servant too.
(From Singing the Faith Hymns)
An Unfamiliar Landscape
I once travelled on a train from Letchworth Garden City to Cambridge. At one point on the journey a clear view opened. The train was travelling along the side of a low gently sloping hill. I was looking across a wide valley to distant low hills. There were woods and villages. I am guessing that there was an unseen river somewhere running parallel to the train. The location of the scene I can only place approximately; if I have travelled through that area in a car at some other time I am unsure. This view filled me with a longing to explore and find where we were. The villages we passed through did not particularly inspire but the distant places, not clearly seen, drew me to imagine what they would be like.
The book of Deuteronomy has an important place in scripture. It is Moses farewell address. Moses has led the people out of Egypt to the ‘Promised Land’. The generation that left Egypt has passed away; a new generation will enter the land. Moses himself will not enter the land, but he will see it from Mount Nebo on the eastern side of the Jordan. He will see the distant blue hills and plains, but the reality of the land will elude him. Would it have inspired him? Would it have disappointed him? He would never find out. His mission is over. His life’s work is complete. Moses imminent death hangs over the book of Deuteronomy and the people cannot move forward into the land until Moses leaves them. The generation that left Egypt was reluctant to progress, the new generation longs to move forward but is conflicted at the reality of letting go of the familiar and comfortable. There is an order and unity in the generation that will enter the land that was lacking in the generation that left Egypt.
I had a phone call while I was writing the first paragraph, from a member of a church I once had pastoral charge of. He had successfully candidated for ministry. This was the second time of trying. Those who know him agree that his call seems to be right, yet his first attempt was turned down when a difficult question was posed that he could not answer. It can sometimes be difficult for us to understand when God says not yet.
There was a man who felt that God called him to take the gospel to Korea. At that time Korea was an unfamiliar place. The man managed to learn the Korean language and after that translated the Gospels into Korean. He undertook the long sea voyage to Korea and after years of preparation finally walked down the gangway and on to Korean soil. Within minutes of landing he was attacked and killed. I understand that they still use his translation of the gospels today. Through his calling many people have come to faith.
God Bless Colin
Praying through the eyes of Jesus.
I saw a wonderful picture the other day; a cross shape had been cut out of a piece of cardboard and someone had used it as a window through which to see the world. I’ve since made my own and have been experimenting… (see below)
Looking at the world through the lens of the cross seems to me to say something about praying through the eyes of Jesus – looking at the world from the cross, as opposed to looking at the cross from the world. As we look at the world through the lens of the cross each picture tells us this is something Christ thought it worth dying for. Each picture is precious to God and therefore ought to be precious to us and treated accordingly. ‘Beauty for Brokenness’ was the original title for the pictures I saw.
This seemed to me a powerful way of praying for our world.
It could be taken out on your daily walk, or perhaps even just put on your window, as a reminder
Please do send me pictures of your own cardboard prayer windows as an encouragement to see the world through Jesus’ eyes as something so precious and beautiful.
Happy Resurrection Season!
We would like to bring you greetings as we approach Holy Week and to wish you a Happy Easter. This past year has probably been one of the most difficult years many of us can remember and we have all been affected by the Covid pandemic in different ways. We have all experienced the difficulties of lockdowns and restrictions and the losses that accompany those constraints on our everyday lives. We also recognize that some of you will have faced sickness and bereavement as well as concerns over finances, mental health issues and isolation and has in many ways been a wilderness experience for many.
During this Lent season we reflect on Jesus in the wilderness and the lead up to the first Easter and recall the dashed hopes and dreams of those early disciples as they watched Jesus die, and then celebrate their joy and wonder when their Lord appeared to them again, risen from the dead.
We have been walking a difficult path through this pandemic but just as the longer days, flowers blooming and birds singing remind us that the earth is reawakening after the darkness and gloom of winter, we are reminded that there are signs of hope around us. Those of us who know and love Jesus have found comfort in knowing that he has been walking alongside us even in these difficult circumstances and we are encouraged to lift our heads and fix our eyes on Jesus as we look forward in hope to the future.
We pray that whatever your reflections on this past year, you will know the hope, comfort and peace of the risen Jesus in your heart and life and that you will see those glimmers of light as the dawn breaks. We pray that you will indeed discover the joy of the Lord to be your strength moment by moment and know the truth that 'The best of all is, God is with us.'
With every blessing,
The Revd Richard Teal Mrs Carolyn Lawrence
President of the Methodist Vice-President of the Methodist
Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov was a Russian nationalist composer. In his Russian Easter Overture he captures beautifully a sense of wonder and awe in the celebrations. This piece of sonata form music gives us a picture of an Easter day, not just a religious setting but a landscape of nature in this spring time celebration. In 1722 a collection of Russian religious music called the Obichod was published. Rimsky-Korsakov blends tunes from that collection into his own composition to create a truly lovely piece of music. The hymns selected work musically but also have a motive which gives the Overture a theme.
The first hymn that we are introduced to is called ‘Let God Arise’. There are images of resurrection from the hymn, but as the violins remind us of birdsong, there are images of sunrise and new day. This piece of music reminds us that Easter is not only a religious festival but marks the start of spring. Religious festivals give us focus on the great events in salvation history and mark out the cycle of the year.
Rimsky-Korsakov introduces the tune of a second hymn called ‘An Angel Wailed’. This is played on the cello and is beautiful and lyrical. The music gives a sense if being in the church but also of outside the church; of ritual and of nature.
The first theme is introduced by the third hymn tune borrowed from the Obichod, ‘Let Them Also That Hate Him Flee Before Him’. This music is vigorous and dramatic, but the tune is similar to ‘Let God Arise’. A sense of action and things happening is anchored in the sense of awe and beauty.
The fourth hymn Rimsky-Korsakov uses forms part of the second theme. The hymn is ‘Christ is Arisen’. This tune is close to ‘An Angel Wailed’ but also has phrases that link it to the other two hymns. With ‘Christ is Arisen’ we hear the bells ringing and fanfares playing as the day and the celebration reaches its glorious fanfare.
Rimsky-Korsakov takes these four hymns and makes them melt into his own beautiful composition. The music takes us into the celebration and into the beautiful day. It is too easy to focus on what we are doing and miss the beauty of natu
re around us. It is also to allow one day to disappear into another and loose the sense of season and celebration.
Rev’d Colin Telfer
Picture: Resurrection by Fr. Andrey Davydov
Greetings to you all in the name of our Lord and Saviour. We are marching on with Christ on the journey to the Cross. As you receive this letter, we are entering Holy Week, the most solemn week which marks the final journey before death, resurrection, and ascension.
Sunday the 28th begins the week to victory, as we celebrate Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. On Holy Monday, our scripture teaches us of Jesus’ return to Jerusalem, seeing the shameful attitude amongst the people of God in the temple and the cleansing of the temple. We all know that we too are the temples of God. As we enter Holy Week, how are things with us and God? How does this speak into your life?
The rest of the week unfolds with Jesus suffering through to his death. Death on a cross. We do not know what crucifixion is, because nobody is crucified these days. For us to understand the privilege we carry as disciples of Christ, we may need to educate ourselves on the process of crucifixion in those days. The very process that Jesus went through for you and me.
The pain and suffering that Jesus endured; to be rejected, humiliated, tormented, scourged, flogged, spat on, stripped of his clothes, dressed a crown of thorns, verbally abused, emotionally traumatised and eventually death on a Cross. He endured this pain for our sake. This is not just a ritual, but this speaks into the very life of every disciple of Christ. How does this speak into your life?
In the service for Holy Communion, we do chant these words;
Dying you destroyed our death.
Rising, you restored our life.
Lord Jesus come in glory.
As we journey on with Christ to the cross, we believe the suffering and death of Christ leads to resurrection. The suffering of Jesus speaks into our own suffering, turmoil, and confusion in our own lives. Jesus understands our pain, knows our pain and he journeys with us through our own pain. The spirit of Christ in us allows us to embrace pain and suffering believing that we too shall rise. The resurrection of Christ speaks into our own resurrection for like Jesus we have endured our own crosses. The last twelve months have been a blast! How does this speak into your life?
Please do join the rest of the circuit in the evening weekly circuit services throughout Holy Week as we together reflect on how the message of suffering, death and resurrection speaks into our own life journeys.
Deacon Lemia Nkwelah
Pastoral Letter – East Anglia District
Chair of the District - Revd. Julian M. Pursehouse
Some of you will recall that in my pastoral letter for February I suggested that the Season of Lent might be viewed as a season of the heart; a period set aside intentionally for the interior work of prayer, reflection, and spiritual discipline. The other day I found myself reminded of this descriptor when we shared in our District Day of Prayer and Reflection. Over the course of a day, more than a hundred people participated in a whole variety of different opportunities to pray: from meditation to poetry, from morning prayer to compline, from joining with the deaf church to prayer and praise. In addition to the people who joined us online, there was an equal number who participated in their own homes through printed material and creative suggestions for different points in the day. All in all, it was a great success and it reminded me of the centrality of this means of grace in the Christian life of faith.
The word ‘prayer’ itself has its root in the Latin word ‘precari’ (ask earnestly, beg, entreat) and it is not difficult to see the relationship to our English word precarious (to be dependent upon the entreaty or favour of another). To live life in a prayerful state of being is to live with a humble appreciation of the grace and goodness of God who reveals the nature of the divine through the coming of Christ. God who promises to be ‘with’ us and ‘for’ us in Christ crucified and risen; is the God we entreat with every breath of our body in the life of prayer. In this sense the whole of life is prayer – breathing in the presence of God in joy and sorrow, in sickness and in health, in tragedy and elation and finally in life and death! Prayer is the vital breath of the Christian soul, that carries it through the rich tapestry of our human experience.
There is little doubt that we are currently living in precarious times as we continue to struggle with the devastating consequences of a dreadful viral pandemic that has seriously disrupted - some might say irrevocably changed our whole way of life! It seems very likely that we will be living for decades with the economic, social, and political consequences of COVID-19. The Christian Church will not be immune from these aftershocks and a great deal of wisdom will be required to discern what it is we are called to be and do in a post-pandemic world. How will we navigate the competing demands of the digital Church and the Church gathered in presence? How will the Church best serve the needs of the poor and uphold the call for justice? How will we continue to resource the Church financially so that we are fit for purpose in the twenty first century? What importance will we attach to our buildings when we have spent so much time away from them over the last year? These are complex and searching questions that require wisdom, thought and prayer.
Over the next few weeks and months, it is likely that we will all begin to experience a greater degree of freedom as restrictions are relaxed and the vaccination programme continues to gather pace. As a Church we will need to make decisions about the wisdom of returning to our buildings and if we do so how we can ensure that we keep our congregations and our church officers safe. I hope and pray that during this time we will discover again the rich resource of prayer – both personal and corporate – that it will be the doorway to gratitude and praise and a deep silence in which we discern the still small voice of the living God.
With deep peace and blessing,