A Message from the Superintendent Minister June 10th 2020
It is now the middle of June, and we have been in lockdown for nearly 3 months. The government have announced that churches can start to open soon for personal prayer, although it looks like the Methodist Church are asking us to hold off on this and they will issue advice following the annual Methodist Conference at the start of July. There are mixed feelings around. On the one hand we long to see one another, to gather and worship face to face. On the other hand we are aware that to do so might endanger our health and we, rightly, feel very cautious. Please be assured that along with my colleagues Raj and Lindsay, local church stewards and the wider circuit leadership team, we are considering our next steps, listening for guidance from the government and the Methodist Church and we will not rush into anything. If you would like to be part of a conversation in our Circuit about how we move forward with Church after this time of Covid-19, there will be a special Zoom gathering – not a service exactly but an opportunity for everyone to join in conversation and sharing, grounded in prayer – on Thursday 18th June at 7pm on Zoom. For now, we give thanks for the small signs of life we are able to see in the world outside, for the people who matter to us and who are helping us, and for the sense of 'being Church' that we have been able to maintain in one way or another throughout this difficult period.
The world has not stopped turning during lockdown! People have not stopped loving, neither have they stopped suffering. Increasingly as lockdown eases, other events in the world are quite rightly creeping back into the headlines and into our consciousness. On Saturday 30th May, over 50 of us joined a conversation with 2 of our local MPS – William Wragg and Nav Mishra, to discuss what a Good Society will look like after Covid-19. We talked about the valuing of our key workers, maintaining a good climate, what schools will look like. We didn't necessarily have all the answers, but we all agreed how important it will be for people to work together for good in the coming months and years, recognising that poverty and hardship are likely to increase. The Church, and faith communities will play an important part in this.
Dominating the headlines recently has been the tragic death of George Floyd in the USA at the hands of police officers, and the resulting protests there and in the UK. The tragedy of racism is one we still live with, but which as Christians we can never accept. We have a responsibility to denounce sin when we see it and racism is undoubtedly a very real sin in the world today.
On Saturday 6th June, I was proud to join a small and safely socially distanced gathering in the centre of Stockport in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. We were Methodists, Lutherans, Anglicans and member of the United Reformed Church and we stood on the Lancashire Bridge crossing and engaged with passers-by about the reasons for the protest. We met with a lot of support – people waving from buses and clapping as they walked by and stopping to find out more. Some people who stopped wanted to say, 'all lives matter' and of course that is true, but we were able to explain that for centuries, the lives of black people have mattered less in many walks of society. We know that black people are more likely to be randomly stopped by police, more likely to suffer physical and verbal abuse as a result of the colour of their skin, paid less for doing the same jobs as white people, more likely to receive unfavourable treatment when applying for jobs or using public services, and little attention has been given to the reasons behind the disproportionate numbers of Black, Asian and minority ethnic people who have died from Covid-19. For far too long, in many people's thoughts, consciously and subconsciously, white lives have mattered most and that must change. Here's a way of explaining why to say 'all lives matter' in this context is not a kind or helpful thing to say. Imagine your child has died. And that you are speaking at their funeral about how important they were to you, how much you loved them, how much their life mattered. And at that point someone else jumps up and says, 'but all children matter.' Of course all children matter, but at that time, in that place, in those circumstances, in the face of tragedy and grief and anger, the focus must be on the one child who mattered. The message that black lives matter is one which the UK needs to hear and I was proud that the Methodist Church could play a part in spreading that message in Stockport as we seek to create the genuinely fair and inclusive society which was at the heart of what Jesus called the Kingdom of God.
As we reflect on these things, I want to include a wonderful prayer to which I was introduced this week. It is a prayer from the Jewish faith but which translates beautifully for our own situation. I hope you can pray it with me in these coming days. Adonai is simply the Hebrew word for God. Shabbat is the Sabbath, the day for rest and prayer.
Let us pray:
Disturb us, Adonai, ruffle us from our complacency;
Make us dissatisfied. Dissatisfied with the peace of ignorance,
the quietude which arises from a shunning of the horror, the defeat,
the bitterness and the poverty, physical and spiritual, of humans.
Shock us, Adonai, deny to us the false Shabbat which gives us
the delusions of satisfaction amid a world of war and hatred;
Wake us, O God, and shake us
from the sweet and sad poignancies rendered by
half-forgotten melodies and rubric prayers of yesteryears;
Make us know that the border of the sanctuary
is not the border of living
and the walls of Your temples are not shelters
from the winds of truth, justice and reality.
Disturb us, O God, and vex us;
let not Your Shabbat be a day of torpor and slumber;
let it be a time to be stirred and spurred to action. Amen.
(from 'World Union of Progressive Judaism Prayer Book')
And please remember as always:
In this time of isolation and separation may we feel the unity of God's spirit in the bonds of peace and love which connect us to one another.
- When we feel lonely let us know that in Christ we are never alone.
- When we feel isolated may we be reminded that within the worldwide Body of Christ we are always connected.
- When we need a hug help us to feel the warmth of God's embrace
- When we are compelled to keep our distance, may we be drawn close to each other within the Spirit of Companionship that flows from God and which moves through and between each one of us.
With love and blessings,
Forthcoming services are:
Sunday 14th July 3pm and Sunday 21st July 3pm
Thursday 18th June 7pm 'Re-imagining Church'- a conversation and time for prayer about the future of our church for all members across the circuit.
You can join all the above services via Zoom with a video link and see and hear everything and everyone else who is participating, or you can join just with audio, or you can telephone in.
Login details for all forthcoming services are as follows:
Meeting ID: 872 1224 6881
In addition, every Sunday morning at 11am – when we would all normally be in worship in church – we are encouraged to pray the following prayer. This way we stay connected in a very really and tangible way.
God of Love and Life,
We pray to you this morning for the life the United Stockport Methodist Circuit, for our sisters and brothers who belong to:
(pausing briefly to reflect after each name)
Christ Church Methodist /URC Davenport Methodist Church Dialstone Lane Methodist Church
Edgeley Community Church Hazel Grove Methodist Church Heaton Mersey Methodist Church
Heaton Moor United Church St. Johns Methodist Church Tiviot Dale Methodist Church
Trinity Methodist Church Windlehurst Methodist Church
In this time of isolation and separation may we feel the unity of your spirit in the bonds of peace and love which connect us to one another. We worship you, we give you thanks, we praise you for your glory. We ask that this time of crisis might pass and that those who suffer might find comfort and strength within the knowledge of your grace, revealed through the kindness and compassion of the people of God. Eternal God, though the self-offering of your Son you have filled our lives with your presence. Help us in our sufferings and trials. Fill us with hope and strengthen us in our weakness. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Moving into the Future – A Monthly Circuit Service?
Before Covid-19 and the lock down hit, the Circuit Leadership Team had begun to talk about the possibility of starting a monthly Circuit Service at Tiviot Dale. Over the last few weeks, this idea has gained strength as we have enjoyed worshipping together as a Circuit on Zoom. Obviously, we cannot yet plan to hold this service, and it may be some time before we can. No decision has been taken about when the service will be – it could be a Sunday evening or a weekday evening for example – or about what sort of service it will be, but we hope it will be something a bit different and we to want to be prepared. If you would be interested in being part of a group to help organise a monthly circuit service, and/or if you have musical ability and would like to be part of a circuit worship band, then please let Revd Cathy Bird know so that as soon as we can gather again, we have something in place! firstname.lastname@example.org
or 0161 483 4952
A Message from MHA
You will be well aware from the media that the coronavirus pandemic has been a difficult time in the care of people in later life, especially those living in care homes. Sadly, MHA has not been immune to some of the tragic events that have taken place and we are mourning the deaths of residents, members and colleagues.
As part of our reflection on the pandemic, we will be leading a service for MHA Sunday on June 14th and we would like to invite you to join us for that act of worship. The service will include reflections, prayers and music from across MHA on how coronavirus has impacted us and there will also be an act of memorial led by our patron, Pam Rhodes and a blessing given by Professor Clive Marsh, Vice President of The Methodist Conference. The service will be streamed on www.mha.org.uk/mhasunday from 3pm on Sunday June 14th and also available at any time afterwards.