Welcome to Wokingham Methodist Church
Weekly Pastoral Letter - 23 October 2020
From Revd Catherine Bowstead
I hope that you’ve had a good week and have been able to enjoy the stunning colours of autumn as the trees change colour – the colourful display really has been quite spectacular this year. I have also noticed that there has been an abundance of acorns, a reminder of the bounty of creation and the fact that, despite our current difficulties, life goes on.
Whilst infection rates are relatively low in our area at the moment, they are continuing to rise so we mustn’t become complacent. It remains important to respect a 2-metre distance from one another, even when we are amongst friends in church. This is particularly important before and after the service. It is permissible to gather in small groups of up to 6 (keeping the 2m distance) after the service in the church building has finished, but we must be careful not to linger for too long.
Our Church Council met a few weeks ago, and amongst other business we recognised the retirement of Rosi MorganBarry as a Church Steward and recorded our thanks for her faithful service to our church in this role. We also co-opted Kim Tame as a Church Steward. This gives me an opportunity to thank the Church Stewards for the leadership role they offer and for all that they do to promote the well-being and safety of our Sunday congregation each week.
Our service this Sunday is led by Christine Morgan. She will be using the readings 1 Thessalonians 2:1-8, Matthew 22:34-40 and Psalm 1. The theme of the service is “Challenging times”, and Christine will help us to realise that although we live with uncertainty and worry, the commandment of Jesus to love one another gives us courage and confidence to stand firm. You might like to read the Bible passages before Sunday. I am using the same readings in the service that I am leading at Bracknell via Zoom. Those of us able to worship in the church building are appreciating the opportunity to be together, and we were nearly up to our capacity number last Sunday. But we continue to be very grateful to Roger Prior who crafts our recorded service together so beautifully for us each week, and to Michael Wells who ensures that the recording and the order of service are on our website each Sunday – thank you! Don’t forget that the clocks go back on Saturday night, but, of course, those listening at home are free to listen whenever they like.
I’ve been trying to think of ways in which we can maintain our links as a church community even when it is difficult or impossible to meet physically. I’ve enjoyed seeing photos of people’s gardens – they all look amazing, thank you to everyone who shared a photo. Perhaps there are other things we could share too, do please let me know of any ideas that you have. A small group of us have been thinking about how we can prepare for and celebrate Advent and Christmas, and we’ll be sharing these exciting plans with you over the next few weeks.
In these uncertain times we need to keep remining ourselves that God is loving and faithful, look for opportunities to be joyful, and be grateful for all the good things that we can enjoy.
With every blessing,
Weekly Pastoral Letter - 16 October 2020
From Kim Tame
Life is quiet at the moment; work has stopped, and after a working life of chasing from deadline to deadline, it feels very strange. But this enforced retirement has given me more time to spend with our grandchildren, and that has been a blessing. They have just discovered dressing up, and run around the house as princesses, fairies or pirates, oblivious to what's going on in the world - lucky them.
I've been thinking about prison; not because our experience of lockdown is anything like prison; but because the lectionary has taken us through Paul's letter to the Philippians. It's such a positive letter, from such a negative place; written from Rome. For part of that time he was under house arrest, so living in his own rented house, but part of that time was spent in a jail cell. Without freedom, perhaps in the bare and primitive conditions of a cell, Paul nonetheless has learnt "how to be abased and how to abound". Perhaps the letters he wrote, to Philippi, Colossae, Ephesus and Philemon, kept him busy. Perhaps visits from his friends, bringing food or clean clothes cheered him up.
How fortunate we are that technology keeps us in contact with friends and family across the world, and with our brothers and sisters in church. I watch my granddaughters converse with their Cambodian grandparents on Facetime, and appreciate that Colin and I are the lucky ones, to have our lovely grandchildren under our roof. It's also been lovely, after I've "led" a recorded service, to receive comments afterwards via email, instead of with a handshake at the door.
How Paul would have loved our social media! Can you imagine how he might have reached across the world with Facebook or Instagram? Perhaps we would have the emails to Corinth, Galatia, etc, and the text message to Timothy (the time has passed to talk about the Fax of the Apostles). Writing for Paul was such an effort, he usually asked someone to help him. How he would have loved doing what I'm doing now - typing, sometimes stopping to think, backspace and rephrase - and then sending his message off by email, copied around the world in a few minutes. There's a theory that Paul might have had something wrong with his eyesight - on the grounds of Galatians 4:15, where he declares that the Galatians would have given him their eyes if they could. If that was the case, then he would have loved the features that come with this small machine on my lap; the screen reader, the ability to make the text as large as you need to, the little dots on the "F" and the "J" that make it easy to feel where you are on the keyboard, and the voice recognition ability if you don't want to type at all.
Paul had learnt how to be abased, and how to abound; when he received visits and gifts, he was grateful, and expressed his gratitude in his letters. And even in those days when no one visited, when there was no company, little food, when the days were long and bleak, and the nights were even longer, and cold, he trusted in Jesus. Even when he knew he was facing death, he trusted, knowing that his little bit of God's bigger picture would one day make perfect sense. "I can do all things (or all this) through him who strengthens me," he says.
In these testing times, may our faith in God strengthen us and draw us together.