Welcome to Wokingham Methodist Church
Weekly Pastoral Letter - 15 January 2021
From Kim Tame
As we approach the week of prayer for Christian unity, I was reminded of an occasion when I was in a service at St Albans Cathedral, with a congregation that was particularly unusual. A large group of young people had come together from different countries of Europe to the cathedral for a Christian conference. The service was Taizé style, and different people from the group took part in leading the worship and prayers. Each person spoke in their own language, which was then helpfully translated into English.
What was particularly meaningful was that when we came to the point of saying the Lord's prayer together, each person again spoke in their own language. It was a babble; each language has its own peculiar style of rhythm and emphasis, so the phrases did not occur together. But no one whispered; all spoke out the words as they had learnt them. Some people spoke the words faster than others; there was a cascade of "Amens" at the end as we all finished at different times. To me, it was a moment of transcendence and Christian unity and authentic worship. I could have had a basic conversation with the French participants; exchanged perhaps two or three sentences with the Spanish; and I could have said good day to the Germans. But when we prayed, we spoke to the same God, using, in our own ways, the same words, and we were one in Christ. I felt that I understood the concept of the Communion of Saints a little more.
Christian unity often seems like a daunting thing to contemplate; we have inherited a situation of many denominations, many styles of worship and theology, and some people have grown up with the idea that their way of being Christian is the M1 to heaven, with all others being inferior side roads. I blame the Council of Nicaea and the Reformation for that! It wouldn't be right to gloss over our differences and say "we're all the same, really." Some of our differences are superficial, and about matters of style; other differences are important and difficult to reconcile.
At the same time, when we prefer to focus on what we share in common, we find deep resonances. God is love, Jesus is Lord. At the present time, we find ourselves further united; in a shared desire to help our neighbours and our community through difficult circumstances. So at a very deep level, we are all the same, really.
Mike Bowstead will be leading our recorded service for this Sunday (17th January); the readings are 1 Samuel 3:1-10 (the call of Samuel) and John 1:43-51 (Jesus calls Philip and Nathanael). Mike will be sharing his thoughts about how we can recognise and respond to God’s call to us, following on from what Catherine said last Sunday about our calling as Methodists.
Weekly Pastoral Letter - 8 January 2021
From Revd Catherine Bowstead
We are now past the winter solstice and the hours of daylight are getting longer each day, it’s quite noticeable on some afternoons that the daylight lasts a little longer and with it the promise that Spring is on its way. In the meantime, however, we are still in dark times and it’s hard that we are entering yet another period of lockdown. Hopefully as more and more of us get a vaccine it won’t be too long before restrictions can be eased, but in the meantime, we need to be patient. In this further time of waiting, try to find interesting things to do to keep occupied, get some fresh air and exercise each day and keep in touch with others. Claire will be organising some coffee mornings on Zoom, so do contact her if you’d like the link, she can also offer some advice about how to set up Zoom if you’ve not used it before.
This Sunday should have been our Covenant Service, but we have decided to delay holding the Covenant Service until later in the year when we can gather in our church building and celebrate Holy Communion together. Our recorded service on this Sunday will be a service of dedication for the new year and we will read our Covenant prayer together as part of our worship. Ian Cole is helping lead the service and our readings are Isaiah 43: 1-7, 16-19 and John 15: 1-10. Do have a look at these readings before Sunday if you can. The Gospel reading is well-known and one that is used in the Covenant Service about the vine and the branches – maybe you could reflect on how connected you are to God and how you can make this connection stronger. The passage from Isaiah 43 contains some astonishing promises from God, look particularly at the “new thing” in verse 18 and reflect on the new things that God might wish to accomplish in your life and in our church this year.
When you received your Christmas card from church, all the members of our church should also have received their membership card and a postcard about “A Methodist way of life”. I shall be referring to them during the service on Sunday, so you may like to have them to hand. If you haven’t received either of these and would like to, please contact me and I will send them to you.
I am sure that we will get through this difficult time and that a bright future awaits us. Remember that we are not alone, we have friends, family, and members of our church community to offer help and support. And best of all, God has promised that He is always with us.
With every blessing