A Message from the Superintendent Minister September 1st 2020
The 1st September marks a new start for us as the churches in the Romiley Circuit join those in United Stockport to form a brand-new Circuit. During lockdown I have been sending out a fortnightly pastoral letter to all members in the old US Circuit, so I must begin by saying welcome to friends in the churches in Romiley, Woodley, The Ridge, Marple and Jubilee who will be receiving this for the first time.
I've been away for a while, and it's good to be back after a break. Thanks to my colleagues Lindsay and Raj for stepping in and writing the last two letters while I was away. I had been out of the area for around 8 days when the 'local lockdown' in Greater Manchester was announced which meant that I was able to say to those friends I had been planning to stay with that I was 'safe'! I started off travelling to visit my mother who lives near Huntingdon in Cambridgeshire; together we travelled to Norfolk where my aunt holds a caravan on a beautiful holiday park near the coast. My mum and I were able to stay there together but meet up every day with my aunt who lives nearby and spend some quality time together. Having dropped my mum back home I made my way into London to catch up with some friends and family there, before heading West to stay with a friend in Abergavenny and finally ending up in Wincanton for a few days. A day trip to Exmouth saw me narrowly miss several members of the church in Hazel Grove who I discovered were there the day after me! It's a small world and I don't know how many county borders I crossed on my travels, but it must have been a good few. I then arrived home to the rather strange situation of the local lockdown and realised on a trip into Poynton that – just a couple of miles away from my home – there was no lockdown because they are just over the border in Cheshire. Thankfully as I write, news of the local lockdown being lifted for Stockport is coming through. That's great for us, but tough for those people just over the border in more densely populated areas who will look enviously at us, as we are able once again to visit one another in our homes and socialise together.
On September 6th we will be celebrating the coming together of the United Stockport and Romiley Circuits. This means that our circuit and our borough will have more or less the same boundary. The border between the US Circuit and the Romiley Circuit (which used to be somewhere on the A626/627 between Hazel Grove and Woodley/Romiley/Marple) will no longer exist, giving us a strong presence and hopefully a loud voice in the borough. It makes a lot of sense and I am privileged to be able to lead us into this new borderless arrangement.
Sometimes borders can be very confusing! For people whose road has a border running through the middle of it can feel very much like 'one rule for you and one rule for me'. Borders can be imperceptible, or they can be impenetrable. They can offer identity and security, or they can trap and confine. Sometimes they make sense and sometimes they seem non-sensical. Many parts of the world are riddled with conflict because of borders drawn in the past, often randomly, often after other conflicts, in a vain attempt to keep peace and repress tension and separate peoples. Yet all such attempts to divide up the earth will inevitably create division because they ignore the unspoken truth that we are one human race, and God's intention is for us to share the rich resources of the planet which has been entrusted to us. Yet we have come so, so far from that. We see difference as threat rather than delight, and seek to label and constrict those who are not like us. Issues such as Brexit and Donald Trump's insistence on building a wall between Mexico and the USA have highlighted in recent times the significance we have come to place on borders. Over the last few weeks we have been hearing about refugees trying to sail across the English Channel from Calais, escaping various situations of oppression and unrest, trying to make it, usually, to friends and family already settled in the UK. The English Channel is an unforgiving border, some make it across, some are intercepted and returned, some die on the perilous journey. It is not illegal to seek refuge, the notion of an 'illegal asylum seeker' is a false one; it is a basic human right to seek asylum in a safe country, yet there is an increasing voice in government which seeks to deny people this right, sending people back across the border before they ever make it here. In my prayers of intercession, a couple of weeks ago, I prayed that as Christians, we might be people who have' borderless hearts'. Some of you have told me that this expression resonated with you. We may not feel we are in a position to change government policy (although to some extent of course we are and we can) but we are definitely in control of our own sense of what is right or wrong, our own sense of what is at the heart of our Christian tradition, following one for whom borders were things to be crossed and questioned. Our love needs know no borders, even when and where the world creates them.
One border which is the cause of great tension at the moment is that between the main land of China and Hong Kong ( a special administrative region of China). Many people will know about the current situation in Hong Kong, with new National Security Laws and the aggression which is being shown from China towards Hong Kong nationals. As a result, the British Government has offered British National Overseas (BNO) passport holders in Hong Kong a new visa scheme, from January 2021, which will be a lifeline for many people. Even though not everybody can afford or will leave, a lot of Hong Kongers are thinking about taking the BNO scheme offer and moving to the UK. Some of them have already arrived in the UK seeking safety and freedom. The Methodist Church has been approached through one of it's Lay Workers in the United Stockport Circuit to ask if there are individuals or households who may be able to offer a spare room and hospitality to someone from Hong Kong, on a short term basis, to make them feel welcome and enable them to start a new life in the UK. Under the Visa Scheme, most of those arriving will have permission to work or study and to access the NHS, but will have no recourse to public funds, meaning that there is likely to be an initial period when some people will be vulnerable, until they are able to find employment and permanent accommodation. If you might have a room to spare and would like to think about offering some short term hospitality and would like to know more about what might be involved, please contact Mei Yuk Wong 07825 507416 email@example.com.
In the next few weeks, some of us will be crossing the borders back into our churches! As I write, risk assessments are being completed and chairs placed into socially distanced positions. I urge us all to be patient at this time. Things will not be quite like they were and church stewards will need plenty of support as they do what they can to ensure that our return to worship is safe, but also meaningful. If you don't feel able to return because you are still isolating or living with someone else who is then please don't despair. Zoom services will continue for the foreseeable future, as will these letters and the high standard of pastoral care that I hope we have all come to know. If you are able to return to worship, and feel you might be able to help out, then please let your minister or Senior Steward know – there may well be additional tasks that need to be undertaken during worship times.
I also enclose with this letter a summary of the main things which were discussed at the Annual Methodist Conference in July. Please do read this – it is so important that we recognise our part in the national church (in Methodist language, the Connexion). Although we have circuit borders, these cannot get in the way of the sense of connectedness which is so important in the Methodist tradition. We are part of One Church, the Methodist Church, and all we do at a local level sits within the Connexional Calling that is offered to us all, to express our faith through worship, service, caring, learning and evangelism. Continue to stay safe everyone and I offer you the blessings of our God whose borderless heart is the pattern for us all. 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, Rev Cathy.
SUNDAY 6TH SEPTEMBER 10.30AM
Please note the time. There will be no 3pm Zoom service on this day.
SERVICE OF CELEBRATION TO WELCOME REVD KATIE SMITH AND GIVE THANKS FOR THE COMING TOGETHER OF THE ROMILEY AND UNITED STOCKPORT CIRCUITS:
Preacher: Revd Dr. Andrew Lunn, Chair of District.
This service will be live streamed from Tiviot Dale Methodist Church so you can watch it as it happens. Only a very small invited congregation can be present but there are two ways you can watch:
Via You Tube, using the following link:
Via Zoom, using the following login details:
Meeting ID: 811 4753 0228 Passcode: 315233
If you are used to connecting to Zoom via the telephone, the same telephone numbers as usual will apply.
On Zoom, people will be able to see each other, and use the chat function if they wish. But because you will be muted throughout you will not be able to talk to each other.
On YouTube, you can use the 'Live chat', but you won't be able to see anybody, just those who are in the church.
As local lockdown restrictions have been lifted, perhaps people who have access to the internet could think of inviting those with no such access to their homes, to watch the service together, but socially distanced.
Sunday 13th and 20th September 3pm
Login details as usual as follows:
Meeting ID: 872 1224 6881 Password: 974333
Even though some churches will be re-opening for worship, let's continue to say this prayer together when we can. This way we stay connected in a very really and tangible way. You will notice the list of churches has now expanded as the United Stockport Circuit and Romiley Circuits join together. You can also read more about each church on the Circuit Website www.stockportcircuit.org.uk
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
Dialstone Lane Methodist Church
Davenport Methodist Church
Edgeley Community Church
Hazel Grove Methodist Church
Heaton Mersey Methodist Church
Heaton Moor United Church
Jubilee Methodist Church, Marple Bridge
Marple Methodist Church and it's class
The Ridge Methodist Church, Marple
Romiley Methodist Church
St. Johns Methodist Church, Cheadle Heath
Tiviot Dale Methodist Church, centre of Stockport
Trinity Methodist Church, Bramhall Lane
Windlehurst Methodist Church, High Lane
Woodley 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.