Rev'd. Denise Harding preached this evening, Wednesday 22nd January, as part of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity - and used some words from John Wesley...
John Wesley's words, interspersed with my attempting to bake a loaf of bread at ecumenical service at Catholic Church tonight:
‘Give me your hand, my brother...’
John Wesley – Sermon on the Catholic Spirit
Do you show your love by your works? As you have time and opportunity, do you in fact "do good to all men," neighbours or strangers, friends or enemies, good or bad? If you are thus minded (may every Christian say, yes), if you are but sincerely desirous of it, and following on until you attain, then "your heart is right, as my heart is with your heart."
"If it be, give me your hand." I do not mean, "Be of my opinion." You need not. I do not expect or desire it. Neither do I mean, "I will be of your opinion." I cannot, it does not depend on my choice. I can no more think, than I can see or hear, as I will. Keep your opinion and I will keep mine, and that as steadily as ever. You need not even endeavour to come over to me, or bring me over to you. I do not desire you to dispute those points, or to hear or speak one word concerning them. Leave all opinions alone on one side and the other: only "give me your hand."
I do not mean, "Embrace my modes of worship," or, "I will embrace yours." This also is a thing which does not depend either on your choice or mine. We must both act as each is fully persuaded in his own mind. Hold fast to that which you believe is most acceptable to God, and I will do the same. I believe the Episcopal form of church government to be scriptural and apostolic. If you think the Presbyterian or Independent is better, think so still, and act accordingly.
I have no desire to dispute with you one moment upon any topic. Let all these smaller points stand aside. Let them never come into sight. "If your heart is as my heart," if you love God and all mankind, I ask no more: "give me your hand."
I mean, first, love me. And that is not only as you love all mankind, not only as you love your enemies or the enemies of God, those that hate you, that "despitefully use you and persecute you," not only as a stranger, as one of whom you know neither good nor evil. I am not satisfied with this. No, "if your heart is right, as mine with your heart," then love me with a very tender affection, as a friend that is closer than a brother, as a brother in Christ, a fellow citizen of the New Jerusalem, a fellow soldier engaged in the same warfare, under the same Captain of our salvation. Love me as a companion in the kingdom and patience of Jesus, and a joint heir of his glory.
If I am ignorant or out of the way, love me (but in a higher degree than you do the bulk of mankind) with the love that is long-suffering and kind; that is patient, bearing and not increasing my burden; that is tender, soft, and compassionate still; that does not envy if at any time it pleases God to prosper me in his work even more than you. Love me with the love that is not provoked, either at my follies or infirmities, or even at my acting (if it should sometimes so appear to you) not according to the will of God.
Lastly, love me not in word only, but in deed and in truth. So far as in conscience you can (retaining still your own opinions, and your own manner of worshipping God), join with me in the work of God, and let us go on hand in hand. And you may certainly go at least this far, that you speak honourably wherever you are of the work of God by whomever he works, and kindly of his messengers. And, if it be in your power, not only sympathize with them when they are in any difficulty or distress, but give them a cheerful and effectual assistance, that they may glorify God on your behalf.
We are continuing with themed preaching up to Lent, the theme for this period being ‘Learning to be Church’, and we will be looking at Sharing the Good News, Salt and Light, and Loving our enemies in 0930live!
This group continues to meet after 0930live! to discuss relevant topics and they are planning to lead one of the services in the next few weeks. Anyone in Year 6 or above is very welcome to join them.
More than ten years ago a group met to discuss how we could better serve the needs of young families at FMC in an increasingly secular age. After much discussion 0930live! was born, with its emphasis on learning and fellowship, and our first service was in February 2004. Initially it was just once a month, until we felt God was challenging us to increase to twice a month, which we did in October 2008. Throughout, God has supported, guided, encouraged and challenged us.
As a planning team, we have grown in faith and repeatedly learn how great God is. We have witnessed families join us and grow in God’s family, and we have mourned the passing of people who encouraged from the outset: we remember with love, Mike Cairns, John and Sylvia Langley and Len Worrall. We also thank Rev’s Gordon, Pat and Denise for their support and guidance.
As part of a year of celebrations we will be having a party in the church hall Saturday 8th February from 4pm. Everyone is very welcome to come along to celebrate our 10th birthday!
Schools & Community Worker
Beacon House of Prayer
I first went to the Beacon house of prayer two years ago on a Lay workers’ training day and was very impressed and amazed at what the house has to offer people and what God has done during the six years since it opened. It is situated very near a roundabout on the edge of the town of Tunstall, Stoke on Trent, and offers a space for people to go and join in the worship/ prayer times, or use the prayer rooms. The website tells their story ...
"We moved to Stoke on Trent in 2003 to serve a local Methodist church. At the start of 2006 we stepped out of that to seek God for a future direction in ministry. It felt as if we were standing on the edge of a new field with God saying ‘you can’t see a way but I will make a way.’ Over a period of six months we prayed and talked with friends about developing a new ministry. One word became crystal clear—’God is calling you to raise up houses of prayer, healing and renewal. In the midst of a significant citywide prayer movement since 2001 the clear prophetic call from God to us was: 'I want you to build me a house of radical worship, teaching and prayer, where the lost will be saved, the sick healed, the downtrodden raised up and my glory revealed. It shall be a holy house, a light on a hill, marked by my presence which you will carry to the nations. This is what has happened".
In December a few of us went to the house and after having a tour of the house, listening to their story, we joined in their midday worship time, when other people came in to worship with us. After lunch we spent time by ourselves in the prayer rooms. None of us wanted to leave at the end of the day.
If you want to experience a place for you and God and discover ideas to worship God then why don’t you come with us next time we visit? A comment from one person who came to the house in December, " I have really enjoyed today, it was so calm in the house, I didn’t want to leave".
Take a look at their website here.
The word ‘Beacon’ sums up a lot of the vision - may it be a light of God’s presence, a fire of night & day prayer and a signal of burning hot Christian spirituality as people live out Jesus’ love.
Young Families Worker
2014 marks the 40th anniversary of the ordination of women into the Methodist ministry. So it is perhaps appropriate that we should begin our series on Women in Methodism by profiling the current President of the Methodist Conference, Rev'd. Ruth Gee.
In 1974 Ruth visited the Taizé community in France with a group of friends. One day she had been praying in a local Roman Catholic church when she felt very strongly that God was calling her to the ordained ministry, although she had no idea whether that was possible for a woman in the Methodist Church. What a coincidence that she should feel that call in the very year that it did indeed become possible!
59-year-old Ruth was born in Dorset and brought up in Wiltshire in a Methodist family (her father was a local preacher). She trained as a teacher of RE and English, and gained a degree in theology at Hull University. While there she met her future husband, Robert, at the University Methodist Society (Meth Soc - many Methodists will testify to what a good place Meth Socs were for finding future partners!). Robert is also a Methodist minister and they have two grown-up children, Andrew and Rachel.
After some years in Circuit ministry, mostly in northern England, Ruth became Chair of the Darlington district in 2008. Her election as President makes her only the fourth woman to have held this position. The Conference is the governing body of Methodism in Britain, and meets annually in July. The President (always a presbyteral minister) and Vice-President (a lay person or a deacon) are elected to serve for one year only. During that year the President acts as the Church’s representative in the world - for instance this year Ruth attended the Remembrance ceremony at the Cenotaph in Whitehall. And, as John Wesley did, they travel the length and breadth of Britain, and overseas, preaching and visiting Methodist projects, and always encouraging and inspiring the Church in its mission.
It is usual for the President and Vice-President to choose a particular theme for their year. A woman of deep spirituality, Ruth wants the Church to become an ‘expectant people’, expecting to see glimpses of the glory of God everywhere around us. God is in everything, even the most mundane. But this is not just a ‘religious feeling’ - her belief that we can recognise the presence of God everywhere leads her to a passionate sense of anger about inequality and injustice.
In her Christmas message to the Church, Ruth quoted the first chapter of John’s gospel, "The Word became flesh and dwelt among us; and we beheld his glory", and called on us all to be generous with our time and our love in response.
If you want to know more about what Ruth is doing in her Presidential year, you can follow her blog.
What exciting times we are in as a church family! The new monthly service for everyone - 4All - is going really well, and all the comments are really positive. Thank you for being part of this new worship event – an opportunity for all the family of the church to be together, and to share in worship and fellowship. If you haven’t yet given it a go, do come and join us. It is at 10.45am on the first Sunday of the month, and there is something for everyone!
The Leadership Team are very aware that bringing together people in the church means that people are meeting others whose names they don’t know, and whose stories they don’t know either. Would you be part of helping us to get to know each other a bit better? Would you be able to send a picture of you (and your family) with names clearly showing who is who in the photograph, to my Administrator Caroline Warrey? And if you can say a bit about yourself/your family that would help even more. Things like where you grew up/what jobs you have done/when you became a Christian/any interesting facts we may not know! If you could do this in February then Caroline can soon put together a church family photograph album which we will keep in church so if you aren’t sure of someone’s name, you can go and take a look in the album. But the big challenge will be getting everyone to do this! If sending something by email (firstname.lastname@example.org) is too much of a challenge to you, then drop the photo in an envelope through the Manse door with a note describing who is in the photo (please don’t presume that I know all your names either – I’m still learning too!). I hope that this will help us learn each other’s names and grow closer together as a family.
We also have had a wonderful time sharing in an Advent Course watching the BBC Nativity DVD before Christmas. In fact it was so popular that we are going to watch another DVD – Chocolat – for a Lent Course. Join us first of all on Saturday 15th March at 7pm to watch the Chocolat film together, and then on five Tuesday evenings at 7.30pm on 18th and 25th March, and 1st, 8th and 15th April. We had a great time last time. Why not come and join us for this next film session?
There is a lot going on in the life of our church – which fills me with delight, and huge thankfulness for all your hard work and commitment and participation. Isn’t this a wonderful family to be part of? One more thing for you to look out for — there will be special events during Holy Week to help us prepare for Good Friday and Easter. Do join in as you wish and as you are able – take the time in quiet reflection as we prepare to accept once more the gift of life that Jesus gave us through his death and resurrection.
God bless you,
Rev'd. Denise Harding
Written by the Minister & Members