Pastoral Letter concerning recent events

Dear Friends,

It is with such sadness that we have had to announce that there will be no further public acts of worship in our churches until June 14th at the very least. We are indeed in unprecedented times and having to face some extreme measures in order to stay safe.

Firstly I want to say that staying safe is the priority for each of you. This means following Government advice. In addition to this advice the Methodist Church is producing regular updates which can be accessed via the website, I do appreciate that many of you do not use online communications so I, along with the stewards, will inform you of any updates that are relevant to our situation.

In these early stages of such drastic changes there is a lot to do to ensure that we have systems in place to support people pastorally in our own churches. There is an awful lot more to do as well such as enabling people to have access to ways of being able to worship at home, managing church business, continuing important meetings, setting communication systems in place and responding to the needs of the vulnerable in the wider community. Not all of these can happen in one go but I will be working with pastoral visitors, stewards, leadership teams and Churches Together colleagues to address these issues.

I will send out regular updates to you all (across my three churches) to ensure you are in the loop and to help us all maintain our sense of connection. In the meantime, and until these things are all up and running, there is much that you can do to help yourselves and others get through the coming weeks, such as;

  • Keeping in touch with each other via telephone will be really helpful in combating social isolation. Especially do this if you think that some would be more prone to becoming isolated given these current measures.
  • Good old fashioned letter writing would also be a great way of keeping in touch, and help to occupy time!
  • Keep occupied, fresh air (even if it’s only an open window), exercise, reading, crafts, TV (but restrict yourself  in terms of the news as too much can become unnecessarily gloomy)
  • If you have or know of any particular hardships that these restrictions may cause then please let your pastoral visitor know.

I do realise that at a time such as this we can feel anxious and afraid for all sorts of reasons as this really does impact everyone on so many levels. Yet we are a people of hope, we are called to put our trust in God and we are called to respond with love. Let us then hold all of this in prayer, and place our trust in God who is able to do far more than we could ever ask for or imagine.

Peace and blessings.

Jayne

 

 

 

A Lesson from Elijah

IMG_4576

“When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and stood at the entrance of the cave.”  1 Kings 19:13

Sometimes I wonder how I would even be able to do my job without modern technology. It bears  wonderful fruits such as being able to respond to calls, emails and texts much more efficiently than before the days of mobile devices. The downside for me is that it contributes enormously to the busyness of my life. I find people expect responses within a few hours, if not immediately. And although it means I can achieve so much more in a lot less time I am not sure this is really good for any of us? With the event of ever increasingly sophisticated technology multitasking becomes  a feature of everyday life before we even realise it. Sometimes I find myself being pulled in all directions, most often according to other people’s agendas!

The biggest casualty of such a lifestyle is the ability to become inwardly still, to remain centered, might be another way of putting it.  So active have our minds become in handling the challenges of modern life with all its noise, diversions and distractions vying for our attention that we become tossed about by the prevailing external conditions.  Think of how we can now have news stories from anywhere in the world beamed into our living rooms so that we could, if we chose to, have a 24 hour media commentary. Such commentary can range from reasonable coverage to totally biased and inflated opinion and even fake news. In a nutshell, modern technology has enabled an insidious bombardment on our very being so that external (and potentially harmful) influences have a greater control over us than we realise. How on earth are we to discern God’s voice in all of this?

I am reminded of Elijah on mount Horeb pulled about so many forces in his life at that moment, trying desperately to listen for and to God’s voice but the noise and drama of the earthquake, wind and fire of his external world meant that he couldn’t, there was too much vying for his attention too.  But then, turning his attention inwards (represented by the cave), he finds that precious place where God indwells the soul and finally he regains his focus, he becomes present to God’s presence and in the silence he is able to hear the whisper of God’s voice.

I am so thankful for the salutary message in this passage from the first book of Kings. It continues to change my whole approach to the pressures of modern life and helps to remind me where that cherished still small voice might be discerned. I now take a minimal approach to modern technology, I consciously choose to centre myself in the cave rather than being whipped about by all the external drama. Here, in the centre of my being, do I find God’s voice and discern its gently whispered wisdom. Only this voice will lead me in  right paths and restore my soul!

 

Retreat at Ammerdown

IMG_4974

It was a privilege to be invited to lead the regional probationers retreat this year.  It was held at Ammerdown Retreat Centre, a place I have not visited for 20 years and my goodness what an incredible make over it has had since I was last there. I would certainly recommend it to anyone wanting to attend or lead a retreat. the accommodation is first class, the food excellent and the staff extremely friendly and helpful.

I chose for my theme ‘The Contemplative Path’  (well what did you expect!) and led 5 sessions over three days as an introduction to  the theme.  I have since adapted the material to suit other contexts (I will be using it as a lent course in March) and thought I would post the outline below. If anyone is interested in joining such a lent group or attending a retreat on this theme please let me know via the contact page.

Retreat Outline

These five sessions are an introduction to the Christian contemplative approach to prayer, to life and to our Christian ministry.

In session 1 we discover how life’s drama’s, big or small, can so easily pull us away from our ‘Christ Centre’ and leave us struggling to hear the ‘Still small voice of God’. How does contemplative practice address this and help us to remain centred?

In session 2 we learn about the vagaries of mind chatter and its sometimes distracting and  negative impact upon us. How does ‘practicing the presence of Christ’ offer a more focused way to live and how might that change the ways in which we share Christ with the world?

In session 3 we explore prayer. How does a contemplative approach to prayer lead us to a deeper understanding and experience of God. What is our relationship with silence? Why did the disciples struggle with prayer in the garden of Gethsemane? What can we learn from the pioneers of the contemplative tradition about prayer?

In session 4 we see how contemplation and activism are two sides of the same coin and how one informs the other. We explore how living to a rule for life might support these two aspects of our Christian journey and what other resources are available to help us grow in the contemplative life..

In session 5 we explore the fruits of contemplation and the trajectory of this path. There is space left during this final session for discussion, questions, pointers for further study and a concluding story.

 

Hospital visiting

My hospital visiting duties were really festive yesterday when this gorgeous therapy pony turned up to wish all of the patients a merry Christmas, and I mean all of them. He visited every single room and had lots of cuddles spreading joy and happiness to all who will be facing Christmas in hospital.

Also Santa turned up whilst I was there, or at least one of his helpers who is currently working for the league of friends, and delivered a present to every inpatient.

A big shout out to all involved in helping to spread some Christmas cheer to all at Tewkesbury General Hospital.

Christmas blessings, Jayne

Christmas Tree Festival Launch

Today we launched our Christmas tree festival at Tewkesbury Methodist Church with a wonderful performance of the Christmas story by Tirlebrook Primary School. What a wonderfully uplifting time this was! The children gave us a fantastic version of the story and the glorious costumes added to the lovely visual effect of it all.

The backdrop to the performance was Christmas tree festival where we have about 30 trees on exhibition. If you find your self in Tewkesbury over the next week or so do pop in to see the trees we are open  from; Tuesday 10th December  until  Saturday 21st  December…. 10:00 – 12:00 a.m.  and   2:004:00 p.m.

Blessings, Jayne

Switching on The Lights

As usual Tewkesbury Methodist Church played its part in the Town festival in which the Christmas lights are switched on. We welcomed one and all to come in our of the cold for free refeshments and use of the facilities. We also  had lots of crafts and ativities for people to get involved with. There were some great performances by the Trinity Puppets and wonderful carol singing to round it all off.

The church was packed to the rafters for the afternoon which is just how we like it and a really food time was had by all.  I went out for a walk by the cross, just before the lights were switched on, with the intention of photographing the lights  but I was captivated by how beautiful our town looked even before the Christmas lights went on so I took these pictures instead.  You have to admit, Tewkesbury is a very photogenic town.

Blessings, Jayne

We will remember them

1e65d8ad-ac91-4621-99aa-97445065c7fd-1

Some of you will be aware that this September I became the minister for Winchcombe Methodist Church whilst continuing at Tewkesbury and Apperley Methodist Churches where I have been minister for two years. It was a real privilege to be asked to give a reflection during Winchcombe town’s service of remembrance this morning. Huge crowds gathered to honour all those who gave their lives for our freedom. In my message I challenged whether we had learnt anything at all and considered where the search for peace must really be sought.  My reflection is given below.

So today we honour all those who gave their lives – the ultimate sacrifice – that we might have a hope for the future and that all may live in peace. Yet we would all agree, I am sure, that Peace in our world today remains a hope yet to be fulfilled. Increasing tensions in the world make us wonder if we have learnt anything at all.

The problem is of course that there is a deep flaw in all of us that from time to time must simply have its own way. It represents my way or no way. It is black or white, yes or no, there is no room for compromise or negotiation for mercy or forgiveness. It seeks only for the self to win and the other to lose and can even rejoice in the downfall of others.

And try as hard as we might to tame this part of ourselves, when the right buttons are pressed we can be quite uncompromising in demanding our own way.

When we watch conflicts played out on our TV’s and dictatorial world leaders playing brinkmanship it is so easy to distance ourselves and our own patterns of wanting our own way (all be they on a smaller scale) but we have them. They are played out in families and churches in neighbourly disputes and in the workplace. Sometimes such behaviour comes out as bullying or intimidating, or oppressing people, other times it comes out as power struggling and it is most likely that we  have all, at sometime in our lives, either inflicted or been afflicted by this oppressive mindset. And, we don’t have to do very much at all to inflict or impose our rule over others…we can reject or exclude people merely by our body language, inflicting huge damage to another’s sense of self worth and all because they don’t see the world the way we think they should! ….

Once again we are seeing some very extreme examples of this  my way or no way mindset  in some current world leaders and we must continue to resist and to take a stance against  oppressive regimens …for this very cause we stand here today giving our grateful thanks and honouring the sacrifice of so many… yet at the same time we are also called to model peace. It’s a difficult tension to hold. But if our prayers for world peace are to be answered then we each have to take responsibility for addressing that my way or no way flaw in our own soul.

Gandhi put it this way ‘Be the change you want to see in the world’.

This was the teaching that Jesus lived and taught us to live. If you really want this world to know lasting peace and freedom from oppression then be that in your dealings with others.

One Christian writer who addresses this deep flaw in the human consciousness gives us the idea of the crucified mind.The Crucified mind is in essence the  opposite of the my way or no way world view. He depicts it as

  • A humble mind.
  • As expressing a love that does not insist on its own way.
  • As expressing a love that seeks the benefit of others
  • A mind that does not bulldoze or crusade through history, culture or  peoples lives demanding conformation
  • A mind that is inclusive and is able to embrace diversity

It is then the very opposite of the oppressive, egocentric  mindset.

So if we are truly to honour those who gave their lives for our freedom and for the hope of future peace – we must address our own inner my way or no way tendencies.

Aligning our own hearts with the qualities of peace and humility will allow Light to shine through the darkness transforming, healing and bringing us to a glorious vision of hope. So let us remember and  honour those who died not just with our thoughts and remembrances but  also with our intentions and actions so that our own lives model the message of hope that they gave their lives for.

Or to quote that wonderful verse from Micah in the Old Testament….this is what is required:

That you act justly, Love Mercy and to walk humbly with your God.